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Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

•  •  • 



Stephen  Vincent 


New  York 

Farrar  &  Rinehart,  Inc. 





The  works  included  in  this  volume  are  covered  by  separate  copyrights, 
AS  stated  below: 



Jacob  and  the  Indians,  Copyright,  1938,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

A  Tooth  for  Paul  Revere,  Copyright,  1937,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster,  Copyright,  1936,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Freedom's  a  Hard-Bought  Thing,  Copyright,  1940,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

O'Halloran's  Luck,  Copyright,  1938,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

The  Die-Hard,  Copyright,  1938,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer,  Copyright,  1937,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Spanish  Bayonet,  Copyright,  1926,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 


Too  Early  Spring,  Copyright,  1933,  by  The  Butterick  Company 

The  Story  About  the  Anteater,  Copyright,  1928,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Schooner  Fairchild's  Class,  Copyright,  1938,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Everybody  Was  Very  Nice,  Copyright,  1936,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

All  Around  the  Town,  Copyright,  1940,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Glamour,  Copyright,  1932,  by  The  Butterick  Company 

No  Visitors,  Copyright,  1940,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

A  Death  in  the  Country,  Copyright,  1932,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Bene"t 


The  Curfew  Tolls,  Copyright,  1935,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

The  King  of  the  Cats,  Copyright,  1929,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Doc  Mefihorn  and  the  Pearly  Gates,  Copyright,  1938,  by  Stephen  Vincent 


The  Last  of  the  Legions,  Copyright,  1937,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Bendt 
The  Blood  of  the  Martyrs,  Copyright,  1936,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet 
Into  Egypt,  Copyright,  1939,  by  Stephen  Vincent  Benet    J 
By  the  Waters  of  Babylon,  Copyright,  1937,  by  Stephen  V/ncent  Benet 



Jacob  and  the  Indians 3 

A  Tooth  for  Paul  Revere 17 

The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster 32 

Freedom's  a  Hard-Bought  Thing 46 

O'Halloran's  Luck 59 

The  Die-Hard 74 

Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 90 



Too  Early  Spring 261 

The  Story  About  the  Anteater 273 

Schooner  Fairchild's  Class 286 

Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 301 

All  Around  the  Town 319 

Glamour 330 

No  Visitors 346 

A  Death  in  the  Country 359 


The  Curfew  Tolls 383 

The  King  of  the  Cats 398 

Doc  Mellhorn  and  the  Pearly  Gates 412 

The  Last  of  the  Legions 430 

The  Blood  of  the  Martyrs 444 

Into  Egypt 461 

By  the  Waters  of  Babylon 471 


Stories  of  American  History 


IT  GOES  BACK  to  the  early  days—may  God  profit  all  who  lived 
then— and  the  ancestors. 

Well,  America,  you  understand,  in  those  days  was  different. 
It  was  a  nice  place,  but  you  wouldn't  believe  it  if  you  saw  it 
today.  Without  busses,  without  trains,  without  states,  without 
Presidents,  nothing! 

With  nothing  but  colonists  and  Indians  and  wild  woods  all 
over  the  country  and  wild  animals  to  live  in  the  wild  woods. 
Imagine  such  a  place!  In  these  days,  you  children  don't  even 
think  about  it;  you  read  about  it  in  the  schoolbooks,  but  what  is 
that?  And  I  put  in  a  call  to  my  daughter,  in  California,  and  in 
three  minutes  I  am  saying  "Hello,  Rosie,"  and  there  it  is  Rosie 
and  she  is  telling  me  about  the  weather,  as  if  I  wanted  to  knowl 
But  things  were  not  always  that  way.  I  remember  my  own  days, 
and  they  were  different.  And  in  the  times  of  my  grandfather's 
grandfather,  they  were  different  still.  Listen  to  the  story. 

My  grandfather's  grandfather  was  Jacob  Stein,  and  he  came 
from  Rettelsheim,  in  Germany.  To  Philadelphia  he  came,  an 
orphan  in  a  sailing  ship,  but  not  a  common  man.  He  had  learning 
—he  had  been  to  the  chedar—he  could  have  been  a  scholar  among 
the  scholars.  Well,  that  is  the  way  things  happen  in  this  bad 
world.  There  was  a  plague  and  a  new  grand  duke— things  are 
always  so.  He  would  say  little  of  it  afterward— they  had  left  his 
teeth  in  his  mouth,  but  he  would  say  little  of  it.  He  did  not  have 
to  say— we  are  children  of  the  Dispersion— we  know  a  black  day 
when  it  comes. 

Yet  imagine— a  young  man  with  fine  dreams  and  learning,  a 
scholar  with  a  pale  face  and  narrow  shoulders,  set  down  in  those 
early  days  in  such  a  new  country.  Well,  he  must  work,  and  he 
did.  It  was  very  fine,  his  learning,  but  it  did  not  fill  his  mouth.  He 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

must  carry  a  pack  on  his  back  and  go  from  door  to  door  with  it. 
That  was  no  disgrace;  it  was  so  that  many  began.  But  it  was  not 
expounding  the  Law,  and  at  first  he  was  very  homesick.  He 
would  sit  in  his  room  at  night,  with  the  one  candle,  and  read  the 
preacher  Koheleth,  till  the  bitterness  of  the  preacher  rose  in  his 
mouth.  Myself,  I  am  sure  that  Koheleth  was  a  great  preacher,  but 
if  he  had  had  a  good  wife  he  would  have  been  a  more  cheerful 
man.  They  had  too  many  wives  in  those  old  days— it  confused 
them.  But  Jacob  was  young. 

As  for  the  new  country  where  he  had  come,  it  was  to  him  a 
place  of  exile,  large  and  frightening.  He  was  glad  to  be  out  of  the 
ship,  but,  at  first,  that  was  all.  And  when  he  saw  his  first  real 
Indian  in  the  street— well,  that  was  a  day!  But  the  Indian,  a  tame 
one,  bought  a  ribbon  from  him  by  signs,  and  after  that  he  felt 
better.  Nevertheless,  it  seemed  to  him  at  times  that  the  straps 
of  the  pack  cut  into  his  very  soul,  and  he  longed  for  the  smell 
of  the  chedar  and  the  quiet  streets  of  Rettelsheim  and  the  good 
smoked  goose-breast  pious  housewives  keep  for  the  scholar.  But 
there  is  no  going  back— there  is  never  any  going  back. 

All  the  same,  he  was  a  polite  young  man,  and  a  hardworking. 
And  soon  he  had  a  stroke  of  luck— or  at  first  it  seemed  so.  It 
was  from  Simon  Ettelsohn  that  he  got  the  trinkets  for  his  pack, 
and  one  day  he  found  Simon  Ettelsohn  arguing  a  point  of  the 
Law  with  a  friend,  for  Simon  was  a  pious  man  and  well  thought 
of  in  the  Congregation  Mikveh  Israel.  Our  grandfather's  grand- 
father stood  by  very  modestly  at  first— he  had  come  to  replenish 
his  pack  and  Simon  was  his  employer.  But  finally  his  heart  moved 
within  him,  for  both  men  were  wrong,  and  he  spoke  and  told 
them  where  they  erred.  For  half  an  hour  he  spoke,  with  his 
pack  still  upon  his  shoulders,  and  never  has  a  text  been  expounded 
with  more  complexity,  not  even  by  the  great  Rcb  Samuel.  Till, 
in  the  end,  Simon  Ettelsohn  threw  up  his  hands  and  called  him  a 
young  David  and  a  candle  of  learning.  Also,  he  allowed  him  a 
more  profitable  route  of  trade.  But,  best  of  all,  he  invited  young 
Jacob  to  his  house,  and  there  Jacob  ate  well  for  the  first  time 
since  he  had  come  to  Philadelphia.  Also  he  laid  eyes  upon  Miriam 
Ettelsohn  for  the  first  time,  and  she  was  Simon's  youngest 
daughter  and  a  rose  of  Sharon. 

After  that,  things  went  better  for  Jacob,  for  the  protection  of 
the  strong  is  like  a  rock  and  a  well.  But  yet  things  did  not  go 

Jacob  and  the  Indians 

altogether  as  he  wished.  For,  at  first,  Simon  Ettelsohn  made  much 
of  him,  and  there  was  stuffed  fish  and  raisin  wine  for  the  young 
scholar,  though  he  was  a  peddler.  But  there  is  a  look  in  a  man's 
eyes  that  says  "H'm?  Son-in-law?"  and  that  look  Jacob  did  not 
see.  He  was  modest— he  did  not  expect  to  win  the  maiden  over- 
night, though  he  longed  for  her.  But  gradually  it  was  borne  in 
upon  him  what  he  was  in  the  Ettelsohn  house—a  young  scholar 
to  be  shown  before  Simon's  friends,  but  a  scholar  whose  learning 
did  not  fill  his  mouth.  He  did  not  blame  Simon  for  it,  but  it  was 
not  what  he  had  intended.  He  began  to  wonder  if  he  would  ever 
get  on  in  the  world  at  all,  and  that  is  not  good  for  any  man. 

Nevertheless,  he  could  have  borne  it,  and  the  aches  and  pains 
of  his  love,  had  it  not  been  for  Meyer  Kappelhuist.  Now,  there 
was  a  pushing  man!  I  speak  no  ill  of  anyone,  not  even  of  your 
Aunt  Cora,  and  she  can  keep  the  De  Groot  silver  if  she  finds  it 
in  her  heart  to  do  so;  who  lies  down  in  the  straw  with  a  dog,  gets 
up  with  fleas.  But  this  Meyer  Kappelhuist!  A  big,  red-faced  fel- 
low from  Holland  with  shoulders  the  size  of  a  barn  door  and  red 
hair  on  the  backs  of  his  hands.  A  big  mouth  for  eating  and  drink- 
ing and  telling  schnorrer  stories— and  he  talked  about  the  Kappel- 
huists,  in  Holland,  till  you'd  think  they  were  made  of  gold.  The 
crane  says,  "I  am  really  a  peacock— at  least  on  my  mother's  side." 
And  yet,  a  thriving  man— that  could  not  be  denied.  He  had 
started  with  a  pack,  like  our  grandfather's  grandfather,  and  now 
he  was  trading  with  the  Indians  and  making  money  hand  over 
fist.  It  seemed  to  Jacob  that  he  could  never  go  to  the  Ettelsohn 
house  without  meeting  Meyer  and  hearing  about  those  Indians. 
And  it  dried  the  words  in  Jacob's  mouth  and  made  his  heart  burn. 

For,  no  sooner  would  our  grandfather's  grandfather  begin  to 
expound  a  text  or  a  proverb,  than  he  would  see  Meyer  Kappel- 
huist looking  at  the  maiden.  And  when  Jacob  had  finished  his 
expounding,  and  there  should  have  been  a  silence,  Meyer  Kappel- 
huist would  take  it  upon  himself  to  thank  him,  but  always  in  a 
tone  that  said:  "The  Law  is  the  Law  and  the  Prophets  are  the 
Prophets,  but  prime  beaver  is  also  prime  beaver,  my  little 
scholar!"  It  took  the  pleasure  from  Jacob's  learning  and  the  joy 
of  the  maiden  from  his  heart.  Then  he  would  sit  silent  and  burn- 
ing, while  Meyer  told  a  great  tale  of  Indians,  slapping  his  hands 
on  his  knees.  And  in  the  end  he  was  always  careiul  to  ask  Jacob 
how  many  needles  and  pins  he  had  sold  that  day;  and  when 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Jacob  told  him,  he  would  smile  and  say  very  smoothly  that  all 
things  had  small  beginnings,  till  the  maiden  herself  could  not  keep 
from  a  little  smile.  Then,  desperately,  Jacob  would  rack  his  brains 
for  more  interesting  matter.  He  would  tell  of  the  wars  of  the 
Maccabees  and  the  glory  of  the  Temple.  But  even  as  he  told 
them,  he  felt  they  were  far  away.  Whereas  Meyer  and  his 
accursed  Indians  were  there,  and  the  maiden's  eyes  shone  at  his 

Finally  he  took  his  courage  in  both  hands  and  went  to  Simon 
Ettelsohn.  It  took  much  for  him  to  do  it,  for  he  had  not  been 
brought  up  to  strive  with  men,  but  with  words.  But  it  seemed  to 
him  now  that  everywhere  he  went  he  heard  of  nothing  but 
Meyer  Kappelhuist  and  his  trading  with  the  Indians,  till  he 
thought  it  would  drive  him  mad.  So  he  went  to  Simon  Ettelsohn 
in  his  shop. 

"I  am  weary  of  this  narrow  trading  in  pins  and  needles,'*  he 
said,  without  more  words. 

Simon  Ettelsohn  looked  at  him  keenly;  for  while  he  was  an 
ambitious  man,  he  was  kindly  as  well. 

"Nu"  he  said.  "A  nice  little  trade  you  have  and  the  people  like 
you.  I  myself  started  in  with  less.  What  would  you  have  more?" 

"I  would  have  much  more,"  said  our  grandfather's  grandfather 
stiffly.  "I  would  have  a  wife  and  a  home  in  this  new  country.  But 
how  shall  I  keep  a  wife?  On  needles  and  pins?" 

"Nz/,  it  has  been  done,"  said  Simon  Ettelsohn,  smiling  a  little. 
"You  are  a  good  boy,  Jacob,  and  we  take  an  interest  in  you. 
Now,  if  it  is  a  question  of  marriage,  there  are  many  worthy 
maidens.  Asher  Levy,  the  baker,  has  a  daughter.  It  is  true  that 
she  squints  a  little,  but  her  heart  is  of  gold."  He  folded  his  hands 
and  smiled. 

"It  is  not  of  Asher  Levy's  daughter  I  am  thinking,"  said  Jacob, 
taken  aback.  Simon  Ettelsohn  nodded  his  head  and  his  face  grew 

"Afa,  Jacob,"  he  said.  "I  see  what  is  in  your  heart.  Well,  you 
are  a  good  boy,  Jacob,  and  a  fine  scholar.  And  if  it  were  in  the 
old  country,  I  am  not  saying.  But  here,  I  have  one  daughter 
married  to  a  Seixas  and  one  to  a  Da  Silva.  You  must  see  that 
makes  a  difference."  And  he  smiled  the  smile  of  a  man  well 
pleased  with  his  world. 

Jacob  and  the  Indians 

"And  if  I  were  such  a  one  as  Meyer  Kappelhuist?"  said  Jacob 

"Now— well,  that  is  a  little  different/'  said  Simon  Ettelsohn 
sensibly.  "For  Meyer  trades  with  the  Indians.  It  is  true,  he  is  a 
little  rough.  But  he  will  die  a  rich  man." 

"I  will  trade  with  the  Indians  too,"  said  Jacob,  and  trembled. 

Simon  Ettelsohn  looked  at  him  as  if  he  had  gone  out  of  his 
mind.  He  looked  at  his  narrow  shoulders  and  his  scholar's  hands. 

"Now,  Jacob,"  he  said  soothingly,  "do  not  be  foolish.  A  scholar 
you  are,  and  learned,  not  an  Indian  trader.  Perhaps  in  a  store  you 
would  do  better.  I  can  speak  to  Aaron  Copras.  And  sooner  or 
later  we  will  find  you  a  nice  maiden.  But  to  trade  with  Indians- 
well,  that  takes  a  different  sort  of  man.  Leave  that  to  Meyer 

"And  your  daughter,  that  rose  of  Sharon?  Shall  I  leave  her, 
too,  to  Meyer  Kappelhuist?"  cried  Jacob. 

Simon  Ettelsohn  looked  uncomfortable. 

"Afo,  Jacob,"  he  said.  "Well,  it  is  not  settled,  of  course.  But—" 

"I  will  go  forth  against  him  as  David  went  against  Goliath," 
said  our  grandfather's  grandfather  wildly.  "I  will  go  forth  into 
the  wilderness.  And  God  should  judge  the  better  man!" 

Then  he  flung  his  pack  on  the  floor  and  strode  from  the  shop. 
Simon  Ettelsohn  called  out  after  him,  but  he  did  not  stop  for 
that.  Nor  was  it  in  his  heart  to  go  and  seek  the  maiden.  Instead, 
when  he  was  in  the  street,  he  counted  the  money  he  had.  It  was 
not  much.  He  had  meant  to  buy  his  trading  goods  on  credit  from 
Simon  Ettelsohn,  but  now  he  could  not  do  that.  He  stood  in  the 
sunlit  street  of  Philadelphia,  like  a  man  bereft  of  hope. 

Nevertheless,  he  was  stubborn— though  how  stubborn  he  did 
not  yet  know.  And  though  he  was  bereft  of  hope,  he  found  his 
feet  taking  him  to  the  house  of  Raphael  Sanchez. 

Now,  Raphael  Sanchez  could  have  bought  and  sold  Simon 
Ettelsohn  twice  over.  An  arrogant  old  man  he  was,  with  fierce 
black  eyes  and  a  beard  that  was  whiter  than  snow.  He  lived  apart, 
in  his  big  house  with  his  granddaughter,  and  men  said  he  was 
very  learned,  but  also  very  disdainful,  and  that  to  him  a  Jew 
was  not  a  Jew  who  did  not  come  of  the  pure  sephardic  strain. 

Jacob  had  seen  him,  in  the  Congregation  Mikveh  Israel,  and  to 
Jacob  he  had  looked  like  an  eagle,  and  fierce  as  an  eagle.  Yet 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

now,  in  his  need,  he  found  himself  knocking  at  that  man's  door. 

It  was  Raphael  Sanchez  himself  who  opened.  "And  what  is 
for  sale  today,  peddler?"  he  said,  looking  scornfully  at  Jacob's 
jacket  where  the  pack  straps  had  worn  it. 

"A  scholar  of  the  Law  is  for  sale,"  said  Jacob  in  his  bitterness, 
and  he  did  not  speak  in  the  tongue  he  had  learned  in  this  country, 
but  in  Hebrew. 

The  old  man  stared  at  him  a  moment. 

"Now  am  I  rebuked,"  he  said.  "For  you  have  the  tongue.  Enter, 
my  guest,"  and  Jacob  touched  the  scroll  by  the  doorpost  and 
went  in. 

They  shared  the  noon  meal  at  Raphael  Sanchez's  table.  It  was 
made  of  dark,  glowing  mahogany,  and  the  light  sank  into  it  as 
sunlight  sinks  into  a  pool.  There  were  many  precious  things  in 
that  room,  but  Jacob  had  no  eyes  for  them.  When  the  meal  was 
over  and  the  blessing  said,  he  opened  his  heart  and  spoke,  and 
Raphael  Sanchez  listened,  stroking  his  beard  with  one  hand. 
When  the  young  man  had  finished,  he  spoke. 

"So,  Scholar,"  he  said,  though  mildly,  "you  have  crossed  an 
ocean  that  you  might  live  and  not  die,  and  yet  all  you  see  is  a 
girl's  face." 

"Did  not  Jacob  serve  seven  years  for  Rachel?"  said  our  grand- 
father's grandfather. 

"Twice  seven,  Scholar,"  said  Raphael  Sanchez  dryly,  "but  that 
was  in  the  blessed  days."  He  stroked  his  beard  again.  "Do  you 
know  why  I  came  to  this  country?"  he  said. 

"No,"  said  Jacob  Stein. 

"It  was  not  for  the  trading,"  said  Raphael  Sanchez.  "My  house 
has  lent  money  to  kings.  A  little  fish,  a  few  furs— what  are  they 
to  my  house?  No,  it  was  for  the  promise— the  promise  of  Penn— 
that  this  land  should  be  an  habitation  and  a  refuge,  not  only  for 
the  Gentiles.  Well,  we  know  Christian  promises.  But  so  far,  it 
has  been  kept.  Are  you  spat  upon  in  the  street  here,  Scholar  of 
the  Law?" 

"No,"  said  Jacob.  "They  call  me  Jew,  now  and  then.  But  the 
Friends,  though  Gentile,  are  kind." 

"It  is  not  so  in  all  countries,"  said  Raphael  Sanchez,  with  a 
terrible  smile. 

"No,"  said  Jacob  quietly,  "it  is  not." 

The  old  man  nodded.  "Yes,  one  does  not  forget  that,"  he 


Jacob  and  the  Indians 

said.  "The  spittle  wipes  off  the  cloth,  but  one  does  not  forget. 
One  does  not  forget  the  persecutor  or  the  persecuted.  That  is 
why  they  think  me  mad,  in  the  Congregation  Mikveh  Israel, 
when  I  speak  what  is  in  my  mind.  For,  look  you"— and  he  pulled 
a  map  from  a  drawer— "here  is  what  we  know  of  these  colonies, 
and  here  and  here  our  people  make  a  new  beginning,  in  another 
air.  But  here  is  New  France—see  it?— and  down  the  great  river 
come  the  French  traders  and  their  Indians." 

"Well?"  said  Jacob  in  puzzlement. 

"Well?"  said  Raphael  Sanchez.  "Are  you  blind?  I  do  not  trust 
the  King  of  France— the  king  before  him  drove  out  the  Hugue- 
nots, and  who  knows  what  he  may  do?  And  if  they  hold  the 
great  rivers  against  us,  we  shall  never  go  westward." 

"We?"  said  Jacob  in  bewilderment. 

"We,"  said  Raphael  Sanchez.  He  struck  his  hand  on  the  map. 
"Oh,  they  cannot  see  it  in  Europe— not  even  their  lords  in  parlia- 
ment and  their  ministers  of  state,"  he  said.  "They  think  this  is  a 
mine,  to  be  worked  as  the  Spaniard?  worked  Potosi,  but  it  is  not 
a  mine.  It  is  something  beginning  to  live,  and  it  is  faceless  and 
nameless  yet.  But  it  is  our  lot  to  be  part  of  it— remember  that  in 
the  wilderness,  my  young  scholar  of  the  Law.  You  think  you 
are  going  there  for  a  girl's  face,  and  that  is  well  enough.  But 
you  may  find  something  there  you  did  not  expect  to  find." 

He  paused  and  his  eyes  had  a  different  look. 

"You  see,  it  is  the  trader  first,"  he  said.  "Always  the  trader, 
before  the  settled  man.  The  Gentiles  will  forget  that,  and  some 
of  our  own  folk  too.  But  one  pays  for  the  land  of  Canaan;  one 
pays  in  blood  and  sweat." 

Then  he  told  Jacob  what  he  would  do  for  him  and  dismissed 
him,  and  Jacob  went  home  to  his  room  with  his  head  buzzing 
strangely.  For  at  times  it  seemed  to  him  that  the  Congregation 
Mikveh  Israel  was  right  in  thinking  Raphael  Sanchez  half  mad. 
And  at  other  times  it  seemed  to  him  that  the  old  man's  words 
were  a  veil,  and  behind  them  moved  and  stirred  some  huge  and 
unguessed  shape.  But  chiefly  he  thought  of  the  rosy  cheeks  of 
Miriam  Ettelsohn. 

It  was  with  the  Scotchman,  McCampbell,  that  Jacob  made  his 
first  trading  journey.  A  strange  man  Was  McCampbell,  with 
grim  features  and  cold  blue  eyes,  but  strong  and  kindly,  though 
silent,  except  when  he  talked  of  the  Ten  Lost  Tribes  of  Israel. 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

For  it  was  his  contention  that  they  were  the  Indians  beyond  the 
Western  Mountains,  and  on  this  subject  he  would  talk  endlessly. 

Indeed,  they  had  much  profitable  conversation,  McCampbell 
quoting  the  doctrines  of  a  rabbi  called  John  Calvin,  and  our 
grandfather's  grandfather  replying  with  Talmud  and  Torah  till 
McCampbell  would  almost  weep  that  such  a  honey-mouthed 
scholar  should  be  destined  to  eternal  damnation.  Yet  he  did  not 
treat  our  grandfather's  grandfather  as  one  destined  to  eternal 
damnation,  but  as  a  man,  and  he,  too,  spoke  of  cities  of  refuge 
as  a  man  speaks  of  realities,  for  his  people  had  also  been  per- 

First  they  left  the  city  behind  them,  and  then  the  outlying 
towns  and,  soon  enough,  they  were  in  the  wilderness.  It  was 
very  strange  to  Jacob  Stein.  At  first  he  would  wake  at  night  and 
lie  awake  listening,  while  his  heart  pounded,  and  each  rustle  in 
the  forest  was  the  step  of  a  wild  Indian,  and  each  screech  of  an 
owl  in  the  forest  the  whoop  before  the  attack.  But  gradually 
this  passed.  He  began  to  notice  how  silently  the  big  man,  Mc- 
Campbell, moved  in  the  woods;  he  began  to  imitate  him.  He 
began  to  learn  many  things  that  even  a  scholar  of  the  Law,  for 
all  his  wisdom,  does  not  know— the  girthing  of  a  packsaddle  and 
the  making  of  fires,  the  look  of  dawn  in  the  forest  and  the  look 
of  evening.  It  was  all  very  new  to  him,  and  sometimes  he  thought 
he  would  die  of  it,  for  his  flesh  weakened.  Yet  always  he  kept  on. 

When  he  saw  his  first  Indians— in  the  woods,  not  in  the  town 
—his  knees  knocked  together.  They  were  there  as  he  had  dreamt 
of  them  in  dreams,  and  he  thought  of  the  spirit,  Iggereth-beth- 
Mathlan,  and  her  seventy-eight  dancing  demons,  for  they  were 
painted  and  in  skins.  But  he  could  not  let  his  knees  knock  to- 
gether, before  heathens  and  a  Gentile,  and  the  first  fear  passed. 
Then  he  found  they  were  grave  men,  very  ceremonious  and 
silent  at  first,  and  then  when  the  silence  had  been  broken,  full  of 
curiosity.  They  knew  McCampbell,  but  him  they  did  not  know, 
and  they  discussed  him  and  his  garments  with  the  frankness  of 
children,  till  Jacob  felt  naked  before  them,  and  yet  not  afraid. 
One  of  them  pointed  to  the  bag  that  hung  at  Jacob's  neck— the 
bag  in  which,  for  safety's  sake,  he  carried  his  phylactery— then 
McCampbell  said  something  and  the  brown  hand  dropped 
quickly,  but  there  was  a  buzz  of  talk. 

Later  on,  McCampbell  explained  to  him  that  they,  too,  wore 


Jacob  and  the  Indians 

little  bags  of  deerskin  and  inside  them  sacred  objects— and  they 
thought,  seeing  his,  that  he  must  be  a  person  or  some  note.  It 
made  him  wonder.  It  made  him  wonder  more  to  eat  deer  meat 
with  them,  by  a  fire. 

It  was  a  green  world  and  a  dark  one  that  he  had  fallen  in- 
dark  with  the  shadow  of  the  forest,  green  with  its  green.  Through 
it  ran  trails  and  paths  that  were  not  yet  roads  or  highways— that 
did  not  have  the  dust  and  smell  of  the  cities  of  men,  but  another 
scent,  another  look.  These  paths  Jacob  noted  carefully,  making 
a  map,  for  that  was  one  of  the  instructions  of  Raphael  Sanchez. 
It  seemed  a  great  labor  and  difficult  and  for  no  purpose;  yet,  as 
he  had  promised,  so  he  did.  And  as  they  sank  deeper  and  deeper 
into  the  depths  of  the  forest,  and  he  saw  pleasant  streams  and 
wide  glades,  untenanted  but  by  the  deer,  strange  thoughts  came 
over  him.  It  seemed  to  him  that  the  Germany  he  had  left  was 
very  small  and  crowded  together;  it  seemed  to  him  that  he  had 
not  known  there  was  so  much  width  to  the  world. 

Now  and  then  he  would  dream  back— dream  back  to  the  quiet 
fields  around  Rettelsheim  and  the  red-brick  houses  of  Philadelphia, 
to  the  stuffed  fish  and  the  raisin  wine,  the  chanting  in  the  chedar 
and  the  white  twisted  loaves  of  calm  Sabbath,  under  the  white 
cloth.  They  would  seem  very  close  for  the  moment,  then  they 
would  seem  very  far  away.  He  was  eating  deer's  meat  in  a  forest 
and  sleeping  beside  embers  in  the  open  night.  It  was  so  that 
Israel  must  have  slept  in  the  wilderness.  He  had  not  thought  of 
it  as  so,  but  it  was  so. 

Now  and  then  he  would  look  at  his  hands— they  seemed  tougher 
and  very  brown,  as  if  they  did  not  belong  to  him  any  more. 
Now  and  then  he  would  catch  a  glimpse  of  his  own  face,  as  he 
drank  at  a  stream.  He  had  a  beard,  but  it  was  not  the  beard  of  a 
scholar— it  was  wild  and  black.  Moreover,  he  was  dressed  in  skins, 
now;  it  seemed  strange  to  be  dressed  in  skins  at  first,  and  then  not 

Now  all  this  time,  when  he  went  to  sleep  at  night,  he  would 
think  of  Miriam  Ettelsohn.  But,  queerly  enough,  the  harder  he 
tried  to  summon  up  her  face  in  his  thoughts,  the  vaguer  it  be- 

He  lost  track  of  time— there  was  only  his  map  and  the  trading 
and  the  journey.  Now  it  seemed  to  him  that  tney  should  surely 
turn  back,  for  their  packs  were  full.  He  spoke  of  it  to  McCamp- 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

bell,  but  McCampbell  shook  his  head.  There  was  a  light  in 
Scotchman's  eyes  now— a  light  that  seemed  strange  to  our  grand- 
father's grandfather— and  he  would  pray  long  at  night,  sometimes 
too  loudly.  So  they  came  to  the  banks  of  the  great  river,  brown 
and  great,  and  saw  it,  and  the  country  beyond  it,  like  a  view 
across  Jordan.  There  was  no  end  to  that  country— it  stretched 
to  the  limits  of  the  sky  and  Jacob  saw  it  with  his  eyes.  He  was 
almost  afraid  at  first,  and  then  he  was  not  afraid. 

It  was  there  that  the  strong  man,  McCampbell,  fell  sick,  and 
there  that  he  died  and  was  buried.  Jacob  buried  him  on  a  bluff 
overlooking  the  river  and  faced  the  grave  to  the  west.  In  his 
death  sickness,  McCampbell  raved  of  the  Ten  Lost  Tribes  again 
and  swore  they  were  just  across  the  river  and  he  would  go  to 
them.  It  took  all  Jacob's  strength  to  hold  him— if  it  had  been  at 
the  beginning  of  the  journey,  he  would  not  have  had  the  strength. 
Then  he  turned  back,  for  he,  too,  had  seen  a  Promised  Land,  not 
for  his  seed  only,  but  for  nations  yet  to  come. 

Nevertheless,  he  was  taken  by  the  Shawnees,  in  a  season  of 
bitter  cold,  with  his  last  horse  dead.  At  first,  when  misfortune 
began  to  fall  upon  him,  he  had  wept  for  the  loss  of  the  horses 
and  the  good  beaver.  But,  when  the  Shawilees  took  him,  he  no 
longer  wept;  for  it  seemed  to  him  that  he  was  no  longer  himself, 
but  a  man  he  did  not  know. 

He  was  not  concerned  when  they  tied  him  to  the  stake  and 
piled  the  wood  around  him,  for  it  seemed  to  him  still  that  it  must 
be  happening  to  another  man.  Nevertheless  he  prayed,  as  was 
fitting,  chanting  loudly;  for  Zion  in  the  wilderness  he  prayed. 
He  could  smell  the  smell  of  the  chedar  and  hear  the  voices  that  he 
knew— Reb  Moses  and  Rcb  Nathan,  and  through  them  the  curi- 
ous voice  of  Raphael  Sanchez,  speaking  in  riddles.  Then  the 
smoke  took  him  and  he  coughed.  His  throat  was  hot.  He  called 
for  drink,  and  though  they  could  not  understand  his  words,  all 
men  know  the  sign  of  thirst,  and  they  brought  him  a  bowl  filled. 
He  put  it  to  his  lips  eagerly  and  dfank,  but  the  stuff  in  the  bowl 
"was  scorching  hot  and  burned  his  mouth.  Very  angry  then  was 
our  grandfather's  grandfather,  and  without  so  much  as  a  cry  he 
took  the  bowl  in  both  hands  and  flung  it  straight  in  the  face  of 
the  man  who  had  brought  it,  scalding  him.  Then  there  was  a  cry 
and  a  murmur  from  the  Shawnees  and,  after  some  moments,  he- 
felt  himself  unbound  and  knew  that  he  lived. 


Jacob  and  the  Indians 

It  was  flinging  the  bowl  at  the  man  while  yet  he  stood  at  the 
stake  that  saved  him,  for  there  is  an  etiquette  about  such  matters. 
One  does  not  burn  a  madman,  among  the  Indians;  and  to  the 
Shawnees,  Jacob's  flinging  the  bowl  proved  that  he  was  mad,  for 
a  sane  man  would  not  have  done  so.  Or  so  it  was  explained  to 
him  later,  though  he  was  never  quite  sure  that  they  had  not  been 
playing  cat-and-mouse  with  him,  to  test  him.  Also  they  were 
much  concerned  by  his  chanting  his  death  song  in  an  unknown 
tongue  and  by  the  phylactery  that  he  had  taken  from  its  bag  and 
bound  upon  brow  and  arm  for  his  death  hour,  for  these  they 
thought  strong  medicine  and  uncertain.  But  in  any  case  they  r$- 
leased  him,  though  they  would  not  give  him  back  his  beaver, 
and  that  winter  he  passed  in  the  lodges  of  the  Shawnees,  treated 
sometimes  like  a  servant  and  sometimes  like  a  guest,  but  always 
on  the  edge  of  peril.  For  he  was  strange  to  them,  and  they  could 
not  quite  make  up  their  minds  about  him,  though  the  man  with 
die  scalded  face  had  his  own  opinion,  as  Jacob  could  see. 

Yet  when  the  winter  was  milder  and  the  hunting  better  than 
it  had  been  in  some  seasons,  it  was  he  who  got  the  credit  of  it, 
and  the  holy  phylactery  also;  and  by  the  end  of  the  winter  he 
was  talking  to  them  of  trade,  though  diffidently  at  first.  Ah,  our 
grandfather's  grandfather,  selig,  what  woes  he  had!  And  yet  it 
was  not  all  woe,  for  he  learned  much  woodcraft  from  the 
Shawnees  and  began  to  speak  in  their  tongue. 

Yet  he  did  not  trust  them  entirely;  and  when  spring  came  and 
he  could  travel,  he  escaped.  He  was  no  longer  a  scholar  then, 
but  a  hunter.  He  tried  to  think  what  day  it  was  by  the  calendar, 
but  he  could  only  remember  the  Bee  Moon  and  the  Berry  Moon. 
Yet  when  he  thought  of  a  feast  he  tried  to  keep  it,  and  always  he 
prayed  for  Zion.  But  when  he  thought  of  Zion,  it  was  not  as  he 
had  thought  of  it  before— a  white  city  set  on  a  hill— but  a  great 
and  open  landscape,  ready  for  nations.  He  could  not  have  said 
why  his  thought  had  changed,  but  it  had. 

I  shall  not  tell  all,  for  who  knows  all?  I  shall  not  tell  of  the 
trading  post  he  found  deserted  and  the  hundred  and  forty  French 
louis  in  the  dead  man's  money  belt.  I  shall  not  tell  of  the  half- 
grown  boy,  McGillvray,  that  he  found  on  the  fringes  of  settle- 
ment—the boy  who  was  to  be  his  partner  in  the  days  to  come— 
and  how  they  traded  again  with  the  Shawnees  and  got  much 
beaver.  Only  this  remains  to  be  told,  for  this  is  true. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

It  was  a  long  time  since  he  had  even  thought  of  Meyer  Kappel- 
huist—the  big  pushing  man  with  red  hairs  on  the  backs  of  his 
hands.  But  now  they  were  turning  back  toward  Philadelphia,  he 
and  McGillvray,  their  packhorses  and  their  beaver;  and  as  the 
paths  began  to  grow  familiar,  old  thoughts  came  into  his  mind. 
Moreover,  he  would  hear  now  and  then,  in  the  outposts  of  the 
wilderness,  of  a  red-haired  trader.  So  when  he  met  the  man 
himself,  not  thirty  miles  from  Lancaster,  he  was  not  surprised. 

Now,  Meyer  Kappelhuist  had  always  seemed  a  big  man  to  our 
grandfather's  grandfather.  But  he  did  not  seem  such  a  big  man, 
met  in  the  wilderness  by  chance,  and  at  that  Jacob  was  amazed. 
Yet  the  greater  surprise  was  Meyer  Kappelhuist's,  for  he  stared 
at  our  grandfather's  grandfather  long  and  puzzledly  before  he 
cried  out,  "But  it's  the  little  scholar!"  and  clapped  his  hand  on 
his  knee.  Then  they  greeted  each  other  civilly  and  Meyer  Kap- 
pelhuist drank  liquor  because  of  the  meeting,  but  Jacob  drank 
nothing.  For,  all  the  time,  they  were  talking,  he  could  see  Meyer 
Kappelhuist's  eyes  fixed  greedily  upon  his  packs  of  beaver,  and 
he  did  not  like  that.  Nor  did  he  like  the  looks  of  the  three  tame 
Indians  who  traveled  with  Meyer  Kappelhuist  and,  though  he 
was  a  man  of  peace,  he  kept  his  hand  on  his  arms,  and  the  boyt 
McGillvray,  did  the  same. 

Meyer  Kappelhuist  was  anxious  that  they  should  travel  on 
together,  but  Jacob  refused,  for,  as  I  say,  he  did  not  like  the  look 
in  the  red-haired  man's  eyes.  So  he  said  he  was  taking  another 
road  and  left  it  at  that. 

"And  the  news  you  have  of  Simon  Ettelsohn  and  his  family- 
it  is  good,  no  doubt,  for  I  know  you  are  close  to  them,"  said 
Jacob,  before  they  parted. 

"Close  to  them?"  said  Meyer  Kappelhuist,  and  he  looked  black 
as  thunder.  Then  he  laughed  a  forced  laugh.  "Oh,  I  see  them  no 
more,"  he  said.  "The  old  rascal  has  promised  his  daughter  to  a 
cousin  of  the  Seixas,  a  greeny,  just  come  over,  but  rich,  they  say. 
But  to  tell  you  the  truth,  I  think  we  are  well  out  of  it,  Scholar 
—she  was  always  a  little  too  skinny  for  my  taste,"  and  he  laughed 

"She  was  a  rose  of  Sharon  and  a  lily  of  the  valley,"  said  Jacob 
respectfully,  and  yet  not  with  the  pang  he  would  have  expected 
at  such  news,  though  it  made  him  more  determined  than  ever 
not  to  travel  with  Meyer  Kappelhuist.  And  with  that  they  parted 


Jacob  and  tbe  Indians 

and  Meyer  Kappelhuist  went  his  way.  Then  Jacob  took  a  fork  in 
the  trail  that  McGillvray  knew  of  and  that  was  as  well  for  him. 
For  when  he  got  to  Lancaster,  there  was  news  of  the  killing  of 
a  trader  by  the  Indians  who  traveled  with  him;  and  when  Jacob 
asked  for  details,  they  showed  him  something  dried  on  a  willow 
hoop.  Jacob  looked  at  the  thing  and  saw  the  hairs  upon  it  were 

"Sculped  all  right,  but  we  got  it  back,"  said  the  frontiersman, 
with  satisfaction.  "The  red  devil  had  it  on  him  when  we  caught 
him.  Should  have  buried  it,  too,  I  guess,  but  we'd  buried  him 
already  and  it  didn't  seem  feasible.  Thought  I  might  take  it  to 
Philadelphy,  sometime— might  make  an  impression  on  the  gov- 
ernor. Say,  if  you're  going  there,  you  might— after  all,  that's 
where  he  come  from.  Be  a  sort  of  memento  to  his  folks." 

"And  it  might  have  been  mine,  if  I  had  traveled  with  him," 
said  Jacob.  He  stared  at  the  thing  again,  and  his  heart  rose  against 
touching  it.  Yet  it  was  well  the  city  people  should  know  what 
happened  to  men  in  the  wilderness,  and  the  price  of  blood.  "Yes, 
I  will  take  it,"  he  said. 

Jacob  stood  before  the  door  of  Raphael  Sanchez,  in  Philadel- 
phia. He  knocked  at  the  door  with  his  knuckles,  and  the  old  man 
himself  peered  out  at  him. 

"And  what  is  your  business  with  me,  Frontiersman?"  said  the 
old  man,  peering. 

"The  price  of  blood  for  a  country,"  said  Jacob  Stein.  He  did 
not  raise  his  voice,  but  there  was  a  note  in  it  that  had  not  been 
there  when  he  first  knocked  at  Raphael  Sanchez's  door. 

The  old  man  stared  at  him  soberly.  "Enter,  my  son,"  he  said  at 
last,  and  Jacob  touched  the  scroll  by  the  doorpost  and  went  in. 

He  walked  through  the  halls  as  a  man  walks  in  a  dream.  At 
last  he  was  sitting  by  the  dark  mahogany  table.  There  was  noth- 
ing changed  in  the  room— he  wondered  greatly  that  nothing  in 
it  had  changed. 

"And  what  have  you  seen,  my  son?"  said  Raphael  Sanchez. 

"I  have  seen  the  land  of  Canaan,  flowing  with  milk  and  honey," 
said  Jacob,  Scholar  of  the  Law.  "I  have  brought  back  grapes 
from  Eshcol,  and  other  things  that  are  terrible  to  behold,"  he 
cried,  and  even  as  he  cried  he  felt  the  sob  rise  in  his  throat.  He 
choked  it  down.  "Also  there  are  eighteen  packs  of  prime  beaver 
at  the  warehouse  and  a  boy  named  McGillvray,  a  Gentile,  but 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

very  trusty,"  he  said.  "The  beaver  is  very  good  and  the  boy  under 
my  protection.  And  McCampbell  died  by  the  great  river,  but 
he  had  seen  the  land  and  I  think  he  rests  well.  The  map  is  not 
made  as  I  would  have  it,  but  it  shows  new  things.  And  we  must 
trade  with  the  Shawnees.  There  are  three  posts  to  be  established 
—I  have  marked  them  on  the  map— and  later,  more.  And  beyond 
the  great  river  there  is  country  that  stretches  to  the  end  of  the 
world.  That  is  where  my  friend  McCampbell  lies,  with  his  face 
turned  west.  But  what  is  the  use  of  talking?  You  would  not 

He  put  his  head  on  his  arms,  for  the  room  was  too  quiet  and 
peaceful,  and  he  was  very  tired.  Raphael  Sanchez  moved  around 
the  table  and  touched  him  on  the  shoulder. 

"Did  I  not  say,  my  son,  that  there  was  more  than  a  girl's  face 
to  be  found  in  the  wilderness?"  he  said. 

"A  girl's  face?"  said  Jacob.  "Why,  she  is  to  be  married  and, 
I  hope,  will  be  happy,  for  she  was  a  rose  of  Sharon.  But  what 
are  girls'  faces  beside  this?"  and  he  flung  something  on  the  table. 
It  rattled  dryly  on  the  table,  like  a  cast  snakeskin,  but  the  hairs 
upon  it  were  red. 

"It  was  Meyer  Kappelhuist,"  said  Jacob  childishly,  "and  he  was 
a  strong  man.  And  I  am  not  strong,  but  a  scholar.  But  I  have 
seen  what  I  have  seen.  And  we  must  say  Kaddish  for  him." 

"Yes,  yes,"  said  Raphael  Sanchez.  "It  will  be  done.  I  will  see 
to  it." 

"But  you  do  not  understand,"  said  Jacob.  "I  have  eaten  deer's 
meat  in  the  wilderness  and  forgotten  the  month  and  the  year. 
I  have  been  a  servant  to  the  heathen  and  held  the  scalp  of  my 
enemy  in  my  hand.  I  will  never  be  the  same  man." 

"Oh,  you  will  be  the  same,"  said  Sanchez.  "And  no  worse  a 
scholar,  perhaps.  But  this  is  a  new  country." 

"It  must  be  for  all,"  said  Jacob.  "For  my  friend  McCampbell 
died  also,  and  he  was  a  Gentile." 

"Let  us  hope,"  said  Raphael  Sanchez  and  touched  him  again 
upon  the  shoulder.  Then  Jacob  lifted  his  head  and  he  saw  that 
the  light  had  declined  and  the  evening  was  upon  him.  And  even 
as  he  looked,  Raphael  Sanchez's  granddaughter  came  in  to  light 
the  candles  for  Sabbath.  And  Jacob  looked  upon  her,  and  she 
was  a  dove,  with  dove's  eyes. 



Some  say  it  all  happened  because  of  Hancock  and  Adams  (saia 
the  old  man,  pulling  at  his  pipe),  and  some  put  it  back  to  the 
Stamp  Act  and  before.  Then  there's  some  hold  out  for  Paul 
Revere  and  his  little  silver  box.  But  the  way  I  heard  it,  it  broke 
loose  because  of  Lige  Butterwick  and  his  tooth. 

What's  that?  Why,  the  American  Revolution,  of  course.  What 
else  would  I  be  talking  about?  Well,  your  story  about  the  land 
down  South  that  they  had  to  plough  with  alligators  reminded  me. 

No,  this  is  a  true  story— or  at  least  that's  how  I  heard  it  told. 
My  great-aunt  was  a  Butterwick  and  I  heard  it  from  her.  And, 
every  now  and  then,  she'd  write  it  out  and  want  to  get  it  put 
in  the  history  books.  But  they'd  always  put  her  off  with  some 
trifling  sort  of  excuse.  Till,  finally,  she  got  her  dander  up  and 
wrote  direct  to  the  President  of  the  United  States.  Well,  no, 
he  didn't  answer  himself  exactly— the  President's  apt  to  be  a 
pretty  busy  man.  But  the  letter  said  he'd  received  her  interesting 
communication  and  thanked  her  for  it,  so  that  shows  you.  We've 
got  it  framed,  in  the  trailer— the  ink's  a  little  faded,  but  you  can 
make  out  the  man's  name  who  signed  it.  It's  either  Bowers  or 
Thorpe  and  he  wrote  a  very  nice  hand. 

You  see,  my  great-aunt,  she  wasn't  very  respectful  to  the  kind 
of  history  that  does  get  into  the  books.  What  she  liked  was  the 
queer  corners  of  it  and  the  tales  that  get  handed  down  in  families. 
Take  Paul  Revere,  for  instance— all  most  folks  think  about,  with 
him,  is  his  riding  a  horse.  But  when  she  talked  about  Paul  Revere 
—why,  you  could  just  see  him  in  his  shop,  brewing  the  American 
Revolution  in  a  silver  teapot  and  waiting  for  it  to  settle.  Oh  yes, 
he  was  a  silversmith  by  trade— but  she  claimed  he  was  something 
more.  She  claimed  there  was  a  kind  of  magic  in  that  quick,  skill- 
ful hand  of  his— and  that  he  was  one  of  the  kind  of  folks  that  can 
see  just  a  little  bit  farther  into  a  millstone  than  most.  But  it  was 
when  she  got  to  Lige  Butterwick  that  she  really  turned  herself 

For  she  claimed  that  it  took  all  sorts  to  make  a  country— and 
that  meant  the  dumb  ones,  too.  I  don't  mean  ijits  or  nincompoops 
—just  the  ordinary  folks  that  live  along  from  day  to  day.  And 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

that  day  may  be  a  notable  day  in  history —but  it's  just  Tuesday 
to  them,  till  they  read  all  about  it  in  the  papers.  Oh,  the  heroes 
and  the  great  men— they  can  plan  and  contrive  and  see  ahead.  But 
it  isn't  till  the  Lige  Butterwicks  get  stirred  up  that  things  really 
start  to  happen.  Or  so  she  claimed.  And  the  way  that  they  do  get 
stirred  up  is  often  curious,  as  she'd  tell  this  story  to  prove. 

For,  now  you  take  Lige  Butterwick— and,  before  his  tooth 
started  aching,  he  was  just  like  you  and  me.  He  lived  on  a  farm 
about  eight  miles  from  Lexington,  Massachusetts,  and  he  was  a 
peaceable  man.  It  was  troubled  times  in  the  American  colonies, 
what  with  British  warships  in  Boston  Harbor  and  British  soldiers 
in  Boston  and  Sons  of  Liberty  hooting  the  British  soldiers— not 
to  speak  of  Boston  tea  parties  and  such.  But  Lige  Butterwick,  he 
worked  his  farm  and  didn't  pay  much  attention.  There's  lots  of 
people  like  that,  even  in  troubled  times. 

When  he  went  into  town,  to  be  sure,  there  was  high  talk  at 
the  tavern.  But  he  bought  his  goods  and 'came  home  again— he  had 
ideas  about  politics,  but  he  didn't  talk  about  them  much.  He  had 
a  good  farm  and  it  kept  him  busy— he  had  a  wife  and  five  chil- 
dren and  they  kept  him  humping.  The  young  folks  could  argue 
about  King  George  and  Sam  Adams— he  wondered  how  the  corn 
was  going  to  stand  that  year.  Now  and  then,  if  somebody  said 
that  this  and  that  was  a  burning  shame,  he'd  allow  as  how  it  might 
be,  just  to  be  neighborly.  But,  inside,  he  was  wondering  whether 
next  year  he  mightn't  make  an  experiment  and  plant  the  west 
field  in  rye. 

Well,  everything  went  along  for  him  the  way  that  it  does  for 
most  folks  with  good  years  and  bad  years,  till  one  April  morning, 
in  1775,  he  woke  up  with  a  toothache.  Being  the  kind  of  man  he 
was,  he  didn't  pay  much  attention  to  it  at  first.  But  he  men- 
tioned it  that  evening,  at  supper,  and  his  wife  got  a  bag  of  hot 
salt  for  him.  He  held  it  to  his  face  and  it  seemed  to  ease  him, 
but  he  couldn't  hold  it  there  all  night,  and,  next  morning,  the 
tooth  hurt  worse  than  ever. 

Well,  he  stood  it  the  next  day  and  the  next,  but  it  didn't 
improve  any.  He  tried  tansy  tea  and  other  remedies— he  tried 
tying  a  string  to  it  and  having  his  wife  slam  the  door.  But,  when 
it  came  to  the  pinch,  he  couldn't  quite  do  it.  So,  finally,  he  took 
the  horse  and  rode  into  Lexington  town  to  have  it  seen  to.  Mrs. 
Butterwick  made  him— she  said  it  might  be  an  expense,  but  any- 


A  Tooth  for  Paul  Revere 

thing  was  better  than  having  him  act  as  if  he  wanted  to  kick  the 
cat  across  tne  room  every  time  she  put  her  feet  down  hard. 

When  he  got  into  Lexington,  he  noticed  that  folks  there 
seemed  kind  of  excited.  There  was  a  lot  of  talk  about  muskets 
and  powder  and  a  couple  of  men  called  Hancock  and  Adams 
who  were  staying  at  Parson  Clarke's,  But  Lige  Butterwick  had  his 
own  business  to  attend  to— and,  besides,  his  tooth  was  jumping 
so  he  wasn't  in  any  mood  for  conversation.  He  set  off  for  the 
local  barber's,  as  being  the  likeliest  man  he  knew  to  pull  a  tooth. 

The  barber  took  one  look  at  it  and  shook  his  head. 

"I  can  pull  her,  Lige,"  he  said.  "Oh,  I  can  pull  her,  all  right. 
But  she's  got  long  roots  and  strong  roots  and  she's  going  to 
leave  an  awful  gap  when  she's  gone.  Now,  what  you  really 
need,"  he  said,  kind  of  excited,  for  he  was  one  of  those  perky 
little  men  who's  always  interested  in  the  latest  notion,  "what 
you  really  need— though  it's  taking  away  my  business— is  one 
of  these-herc  artificial  teeth  to  go  in  the  hole." 

"Artificial  teeth!"  said  Lige.  "It's  flying  in  the  face  of  Nature!" 

The  barber  shook  his  head.  "No,  Lige,"  he  said,  "that's  where 
you're  wrong.  Artificial  teeth  is  all  the  go  these  days,  and  Lexing- 
ton ought  to  keep  up  with  the  times.  It  would  do  me  good  to  see 
you  with  an  artificial  tooth— it  would  so." 

"Well,  it  might  do  you  good,"  said  Lige,  rather  crossly,  for  his 
tooth  was  jumping,  "but,  supposing  I  did  want  one— how  in  tunket 
will  I  get  one  in  Lexington?" 

"Now  you  just  leave  that  to  me,"  said  the  barber,  all  excited, 
and  he  started  to  rummage  around.  "You'll  have  to  go  to  Boston 
for  it,  but  I  know  just  the  man."  He  was  one  of  those  men  who 
can  always  tell  you  where  to  go  and  it's  usually  wrong.  "See 
here,"  he  went  on.  "There's  a  fellow  called  Revere  in  Boston 
that  fixes  them  and  they  say  he's  a  boss  workman.  Just  take  a 
look  at  this  prospectus"— and  he  started  to  read  from  a  paper: 
"  Whereas  many  persons  are  so  unfortunate  as  to  lose  their  fore- 
teeth'—that's  you,  Lige— 'to  their  great  detriment,  not  only  in 
looks  but  in  speaking,  both  in  public  and  private,  this  is  to  inform 
all  such  that  they  may  have  them  replaced  by  artificial  ones'— see? 
— 'that  look  as  well  as  the  natural  and  answer  the  end  of  speak- 
ing to  all  intents'— and  then  he's  got  his  name— Paul  Revere,  gold- 
smith, near  the  head  of  Dr.  Clarke's  wharf,  Boston." 

"Sounds  well  enough,"  said  Lige,  "but  what's  it  going  to  cost?" 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

"Oh,  I  know  Revere,"  said  the  barber,  swelling  up  like  a  robin. 
"Comes  through  here  pretty  often,  as  a  matter  of  fact.  And  he's 
a  decent  fellow,  if  he  is  a  pretty  big  bug  in  the  Sons  of  Liberty. 
You  just  mention  my  name." 

"Well,  it's  something  I  hadn't  thought  of,"  said  Lige,  as  his 
tooth  gave  another  red-hot  jounce,  "but  in  for  a  penny,  in  for 
a  pound.  I've  missed  a  day's  work  already  and  that  tooth's  got 
to  come  out  before  I  go  stark,  staring  mad.  But  what  sort  of  man 
is  this  Revere,  anyway?" 

"Oh,  he's  a  regular  wizard!"  said  the  barber.  "A  regular  wiz- 
ard with  his  tools." 

"Wizard!"  said  Lige.  "Well,  I  don't  know  about  wizards.  But 
if  he  can  fix  my  tooth  I'll  call  him  one." 

"You'll  never  regret  it,"  said  the  barber— and  that's  the  way 
folks  always  talk  when  they're  sending  someone  else  to  the  den- 
tist. So  Lige  Butterwick  got  on  his  horse  again  and  started  out 
for  Boston.  A  couple  of  people  shouted  at  him  as  he  rode  down 
the  street,  but  he  didn't  pay  any  attention.  And,  going  by  Par- 
son Clarke's,  he  caught  a  glimpse  of  two  men  talking  in  the 
Parson's  front  room.  One  was  a  tallish,  handsomish  man  in  pretty 
fine  clothes  and  the  other  was  shorter  and  untidy,  with  a  kind 
of  bulldog  face.  But  they  were  strangers  to  him  and  he  didn't 
really  notice  them— just  rode  ahead. 


But  as  soon  as  he  got  into  Boston  he  started  to  feel  queer—and 
it  wasn't  only  his  tooth.  He  hadn't  been  there  in  four  years  and 
he'd  expected  to  find  it  changed,  but  it  wasn't  that.  It  was  a 
clear  enough  day  and  yet  he  kept  feeling  there  was  thunder  in 
the  air.  There'd  be  knots  of  people,  talking  and  arguing,  on 
street  corners,  and  then,  when  you  got  closer  to  them,  they'd 
kind  of  melt  away.  Or,  if  they  stayed,  they'd  look  at  you,  out 
of  the  corners  of  their  eyes.  And  there,  in  the  Port  of  Boston, 
were  the  British  warships,  black  and  grim.  He'd  known  they'd 
be  there,  of  course,  but  it  was  different,  seeing  them.  It  made 
him  feel  queer  to  see  their  guns  pointed  at  the  town.  He'd  known 
there  was  trouble  and  dispute,  in  Boston,  but  the  knowledge 
had  passed  ovei?  him  like  rain  and  hail.  But  now  here  he  was  in 


A  Tooth  for  Paul  Revere 

the   middle  of  it— and  it  smelt  like   earthquake  weather.   He 
couldn't  make  head  or  tail  of  it,  but  he  wanted  to  be  home. 

All  the  same,  he'd  come  to  get  his  tooth  fixed,  and,  being  New 
England,  he  was  bound  to  do  it.  But  first  he  stopped  at  a  tavern 
for  a  bite  and  a  sup,  for  it  was  long  past  his  dinnertime.  And 
there,  it  seemed  to  him,  things  got  even  more  curious. 

"Nice  weather  we're  having,  these  days,"  he  said,  in  a  friendly 
way,  to  the  barkeep. 

"It's  bitter  weather  for  Boston,"  said  the  barkeep,  in  an  un- 
friendly voice,  and  a  sort  of  low  growl  went  up  from  the  boys 
at  the  back  of  the  room  and  every  eye  fixed  on  Lige. 

Well,  that  didn't  help  the  toothache  any,  but,  being  a  sociable 
person,  Lige  kept  on. 

"May  be,  for  Boston,"  he  said,  "but  out  in  the  country  we'd 
call  it  good  planting  weather." 

The  barkeep  stared  at  him  hard. 

"I  guess  I  was  mistaken  in  you,"  he  said.  "It  15  good  planting 
weather— for  some  kinds  of  trees." 

"And  what  kind  of  trees  were  you  thinking  of?"  said  a  sharp- 
faced  man  at  Lige's  left  and  squeezed  his  shoulder. 

"There's  trees  and  trees,  you  know,"  said  a  red-faced  man  at 
Lige's  right,  and  gave  him  a  dig  in  the  ribs. 

tvWell,  now  that  you  ask  me—"  said  Lige,  but  he  couldn't  even 
finish  before  the  red-faced  man  dug  him  hard  in  the  ribs  again. 

"The  liberty  tree!"  said  the  red-faced  man.  "And  may  it  soon 
be  watered  in  the  blood  of  tyrants!" 

"The  royal  oak  of  England!"  said  the  sharp-faced  man.  "And 
God  save  King  George  and  loyalty!" 

Well,  with  that  it  seemed  to  Lige  Butterwick  as  if  the  whole 
tavern  kind  of  riz  up  at  him.  He  was  kicked  and  pummeled  and 
mauled  and  thrown  into  a  corner  and  yanked  out  of  it  again, 
with  the  red-faced  man  and  the  sharp-faced  man  and  all  the 
rest  of  them  dancing  quadrilles  over  his  prostrate  form.  Till, 
finally,  he  found  himself  out  in  the  street  with  half  his  coat  gone 

"Well,"  said  Lige  to  himself,  "I  always  heard  city  folks  were 
crazy.  But  politics  must  be  getting  serious  in  these  American 
colonies  when  they  start  fighting  about  trees!" 

Then  he  saw  the  sharp-faced  man  was  beside  him,  trying  to 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

shake  his  hand.  He  noticed  with  some  pleasure  that  the  sharp- 
faced  man  had  the  beginnings  of  a  beautiful  black  eye. 

"Nobly  done,  friend,"  said  the  sharp-faced  man,  "and  I'm  glad 
to  find  another  true-hearted  loyalist  in  this  pestilent,  rebellious 

"Well,  I  don't  know  as  I  quite  agree  with  you  about  that," 
said  Lige.  "But  I  came  here  to  get  my  tooth  fixed,  not  to  talk 
politics.  And  as  long  as  youVe  spoken  so  pleasant,  I  wonder  if 
you  could  help  me  out.  You  see,  I'm  from  Lexington  way— 
and  I'm  looking  for  a  fellow  named  Paul  Revere—" 

"Paul  Revere!"  said  the  sharp-faced  man,  as  if  the  name  hit 
him  like  a  bullet.  Then  he  began  to  smile  again— not  a  pleasant 

"Oh,  it's  Paul  Revere  you  want,  my  worthy  and  ingenuous 
friend  from  the  country,"  he  said.  "Well,  I'll  tell  you  how  to 
find  him.  You  go  up  to  the  first  British  soldier  you  see  and  ask 
the  way.  But  you  better  give  the  password  first." 

"Password?"  said  Lige  Butterwick,  scratching  his  ear. 

"Yes,"  said  the  sharp-faced  man,  and  his  smile  got  wider. 
"You  say  to  that  British  soldier,  'Any  lobsters  for  sale  today?' 
Then  you  ask  about  Revere." 

"But  why  do  I  talk  about  lobsters  first?"  said  Lige  Butterwick, 
kind  of  stubborn. 

"Well,  you  see,"  said  the  sharp-faced  man,  "the  British  soldiers 
wear  red  coats.  So  they  like  being  asked  about  lobsters.  Try  it 
and  see."  And  he  went  away,  with  his  shoulders  shaking. 

Well,  that  seemed  queer  to  Lige  Butterwick,  but  no  queerer 
than  the  other  things  that  had  happened  that  day.  All  the  same, 
he  didn't  quite  trust  the  sharp-faced  man,  so  he  took  care  not 
to  come  too  close  to  the  British  patrol  when  he  asked  them 
about  the  lobsters.  And  it  was  lucky  he  did,  for  no  sooner  were 
the  words  out  of  his  mouth  than  the  British  soldiers  took  after 
him  and  chased  him  clear  down  to  the  wharves  before  he  could 
get  away.  At  that,  he  only  managed  it  by  hiding  in  an  empty 
tar-barrel,  and  when  he  got  out  he  was  certainly  a  sight  for  sore 

"Well,  I  guess  that  couldn't  have  been  the  right  password," 
he  said  to  himself,  kind  of  grimly,  as  he  tried  to  rub  off  some 
of  the  tar.  "All  the  same,  I  don't  think  soldiers  ought  to  act  like 
that  when  you  ask  them  a  civil  question.  But,  city  folks  or  sol- 


A  Tooth  for  Paul  Revere 

diers,  they  can't  make  a  fool  out  of  me.  I  came  here  to  get  my 
tooth  fixed  and  get  it  fixed  I  will,  if  I  have  to  surprise  the  whole 
British  Empire  to  do  it." 

And  just  then  he  saw  a  sign  on  a  shop  at  the  end  of  the  wharf. 
And,  according  to  my  great-aunt,  this  was  what  was  on  the 
sign.  It  said  "PAUL  REVERE,  SILVERSMITH"  at  the  top,  and  then, 
under  it,  in  smaller  letters,  "Large  and  small  bells  cast  to  order, 
engraving  and  printing  done  in  job  lots,  artificial  teeth  sculptured 
and  copper  boilers  mended,  all  branches  of  goldsmith  and  silver- 
smith work  and  revolutions  put  up  to  take  out.  Express  Service, 
Tuesdays  and  Fridays,  to  Lexington,  Concord  and  Points  West." 

"Well,"  said  Lige  Butterwick,  "kind  of  a  Jack-of-all-trades. 
Now  maybe  I  can  get  my  tooth  fixed."  And  he  marched  up  to  the 


Paul  Revere  was  behind  the  counter  when  Lige  came  in,  turn- 
ing a  silver  bowl  over  and  over  in  his  hands.  A  man  of  forty-odd 
he  was,  with  a  quick,  keen  face  and  snapping  eyes.  He  was  wear- 
ing Boston  clothes,  but  there  was  a  French  look  about  him— for 
his  father  was  Apollos  Rivoire  from  the  island  of  Guernsey,  and 
good  French  Huguenot  stock.  They'd  changed  the  name  to 
Revere  when  they  crossed  the  water. 

It  wasn't  such  a  big  shop,  but  it  had  silver  pieces  in  it  that 
people  have  paid  thousands  for,  since.  And  the  silver  pieces 
weren't  all.  There  were  prints  and  engravings  of  the  Port  of 
Boston  and  caricatures  of  the  British  and  all  sorts  of  goldsmith 
work,  more  than  you  could  put  a  name  to.  It  was  a 'crowded 
place,  but  shipshape.  And  Paul  Revere  moved  about  it,  quick  and 
keen,  with  his  eyes  full  of  life  and  hot  temper—the  kind  of  man 
who  knows  what  he  wants  to  do  and  does  it  the  next  minute. 

There  were  quite  a  few  customers  there  when  Lige  Butter- 
wick  first  came  in— so  he  sort  of  scrooged  back  in  a  corner  and 
waited  his  chance.  For  one  thing,  after  the  queer  sign  and  the 
barber's  calling  him  a  wizard,  he  wanted  to  be  sure  about  this 
fellow,  Revere,  and  see  what  kind  of  customers  came  to  his  shop. 

Well,  there  was  a  woman  who  wanted  a  christening  mug  for 
a  baby  and  a  man  who  wanted  a  print  of  the  Boston  Massacre. 
And  then  there  was  a  fellow  who  passed  Revere  some  sort  of 
message,  under  cover— Lige  caught  the  whisper,  "powder"  and 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Sons  of  Liberty,"  though  he  couldn't  make  out  the  rest.  And, 
finally,  there  was  a  very  fine  silk-dressed  lady  who  seemed  to 
be  giving  Revere  considerable  trouble.  Lige  peeked  at  her  round 
the  corner  of  his  chair,  and,  somehow  or  other,  she  reminded 
him  of  a  turkey-gobbler,  especially  the  strut. 

She  was  complaining  about  some  silver  that  Paul  Revere  had 
made  for  her— expensive  silver  it  must  have  been.  And  "Oh, 
Master  Revere,  Fm  so  disappointed!"  she  was  saying.  "When 
I  took  the  things  from  the  box,  I  could  just  have  cried!" 

Revere  drew  himself  up  a  little  at  that,  Lige  noticed,  but  his 
voice  was  pleasant. 

"It  is  I  who  am  disappointed,  madam,"  he  said,  with  a  little 
bow.  "But  what  was  the  trouble?  It  must  have  been  carelessly 
packed.  Was  it  badly  dented?  I'll  speak  to  my  boy." 

"Oh  no,  it  wasn't  dented,"  said  the  turkey-gobbler  lady.  "But 
I  wanted  a  really  impressive  silver  service— something  I  can  use 
when  the  Governor  comes  to  dinner  with  us.  I  certainly  paid 
for  the  best.  And  what  have  you  given  me?" 

Lige  waited  to  hear  what  Paul  Revere  would  say.  When  he 
spoke,  his  voice  was  stiff. 

"I  have  given  you  the  best  work  of  which  I  am  capable, 
madam,"  he  said.  "It  was  in  my  hands  for  six  months— and  I 
think  they  are  skillful  hands." 

"Oh,"  said  the  woman,  and  rustled  her  skirts.  "I  know  you're 
a  competent  artisan,  Master  Revere—" 

"Silversmith,  if  you  please—"  said  Paul  Revere,  and  the  woman 
rustled  again. 

"Well,  I  don't  care  what  you  call  it,"  she  said,  and  then  you 
could  see  her  fine  accent  was  put  on  like  her  fine  clothes.  "But 
I  know  I  wanted  a  real  service— something  I  could  show  my 
friends.  And  what  have  you  given  me?  Oh,  it's  silver,  if  you 
choose.  But  it's  just  as  plain  and  simple  as  a  picket  fence!" 

Revere  looked  at  her  for  a  moment  and  Lige  Butterwick 
thought  he'd  explode. 

"Simple?"  he  said.  "And  plain?  You  pay  me  high  compliments, 
madam! " 

"Compliments  indeed!"  said  the  woman,  and  now  she  was  get- 
ting furious.  "I'm  sending  it  back  tomorrow!  Why,  there  isn't 
as  much  as  a  lion  or  a  unicorn  on  the  cream  jug.  And  I  told  you 
I  wanted  the  sugar  bowl  covered  with  silver  grapes!  But  you've 

A  Tooth  for  Paul  Revere 

given  me  something  as  bare  as  the  hills  of  New  England!  And 
I  won't  stand  it,  I  tell  you!  I'll  send  to  England  instead." 

Revere  puffed  his  cheeks  and  blew,  but  his  eyes  were  dan- 

"Send  away,  madam,"  he  said.  "We're  making  new  things  in 
this  country— new  men— new  silver— perhaps,  who  knows,  a  new 
nation.  Plain,  simple,  bare  as  the  hills  and  rocks  of  New  Eng- 
land—graceful as  the  boughs  of  her  elm  trees— if  my  silver  were 
only  like  that  indeed!  But  that  is  what  I  wish  to  make  it.  And, 
as  for  you,  madam,"— he  stepped  toward  her  like  a  cat,— "with 
your  lions  and  unicorns  and  grape  leaves  and  your  nonsense  of 
bad  ornament  done  by  bad  silversmiths— your  imported  bad 
taste  and  your  imported  British  manners— puff!"  And  he  blew 
at  her,  just  the  way  you  blow  at  a  turkey-gobbler,  till  she  fairly 
picked  up  her  fine  silk  skirts  and  ran.  Revere  watched  her  out 
of  the  door  and  turned  back,  shaking  his  head. 

"William!"  he  called  to  the  boy  who  helped  him  in  the  shop. 
"Put  up  the  shutters— we're  closing  for  the  day.  And  William— 
no  word  yet  from  Dr.  Warren?" 

"Not  yet,  sir,"  said  the  boy,  and  started  to  put  up  the  shutters. 
Then  Lige  Butterwick  thought  it  was  about  time  to  make  his 
presence  known. 

So  he  coughed,  and  Paul  Revere  whirled  and  Lige  Butterwick 
felt  those  quick,  keen  eyes  boring  into  his.  He  wasn't  exactly 
afraid  of  them,  for  he  was  stubborn  himself,  but  he  knew  this 
was  an  unexpected  kind  of  man. 

"Well,  my  friend,"  said  Revere,  impatiently,  "and  who  in  the 
world  are  you?" 

"Well,  Mr.  Revere,"  said  Lige  Butterwick.  "It  is  Mr.  Revere, 
isn't  it?  It's  kind  of  a  long  story.  But,  closing  or  not,  you've  got 
to  listen  to  me.  The  barber  told  me  so." 

"The  barber!"  said  Revere,  kind  of  dumbfounded. 

"Uh-huh,"  said  Lige,  and  opened  his  mouth.  "You  see,  it's  my 

"Tooth!"  said  Revere,  and  stared  at  him  as  if  they  were  both 
crazy.  "You'd  better  begin  at  the  beginning.  But  wait  a  minute. 
You  don't  talk  like  a  Boston  man.  Where  do  you  come  from?" 

"Oh,  around  Lexington  way,"  said  Lige.  "And,  you  see—" 

But  the  mention  of  Lexington  seemed  to  throw  Revere  into  a 
regular  excitement.  He  fairly  shook  Lige  by  the  shoulders. 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Lexington!"  he  said.  "Were  you  there  this  morning?" 

"Of  course  I  was,"  said  Lige.  "That's  where  the  barber  I  told 
you  about— " 

"Never  mind  the  barber!"  said  Revere.  "Were  Mr.  Hancock 
and  Mr.  Adams  still  at  Parson  Clarke's?" 

"Well,  they  might  have  been,  for  all  I  know,"  said  Lige.  "But 
I  couldn't  say." 

"Great  heaven!"  said  Revere.  "Is  there  a  man  in  the  American 
colonies  who  doesn't  know  Mr.  Hancock  and  Mr.  Adams?" 

"There  seems  to  be  me,"  said  Lige.  "But,  speaking  of  strangers 
—there  was  two  of  them  staying  at  the  parsonage,  when  I  rode 
past.  One  was  a  handsomish  man  and  the  other  looked  more  like 
a  bulldog-" 

"Hancock  and  Adams!"  said  Revere.  "So  they  are  still  there." 
He  took  a  turn  or  two  up  and  down  the  room.  "And  the  British 
ready  to  march!"  he  muttered  to  himself.  "Did  you  see  many 
soldiers  as  you  came  to  my  shop,  Mr.  Butterwick?" 

"See  them?"  said  Lige.  "They  chased  me  into  a  tar-barrel.  And 
there  was  a  whole  passel  of  them  up  by  the  Common  with  guns 
and  flags.  Looked  as  if  they  meant  business." 

Revere  took  his  hand  and  pumped  it  up  and  down. 

"Thank  you,  Mr.  Butterwick,"  he  said.  "You're  a  shrewd  ob- 
server. And  you  have  done  me— and  the  colonies— an  invaluable 

"Well,  that's  nice  to  know,"  said  Lige.  "But,  speaking  about 
this  tooth  of  mine—" 

Revere  looked  at  him  and  laughed,  while  his  eyes  crinkled. 

"You're  a  stubborn  man,  Mr.  Butterwick,"  he  said.  "All  the 
better.  I  like  stubborn  men.  I  wish  we  had  more  of  them.  Well, 
one  good  turn  deserves  another-you've  helped  me  and  I'll  do 
my  best  to  help  you.  I've  made  artificial  teeth-but  drawing  them 
is  hardly  my  trade.  All  the  same,  I'll  do  what  I  can  for  you." 

So  Lige  sat  down  in  a  chair  and  opened  his  mouth. 

"Whew!"  said  Revere,  with  his  eyes  dancing.  His  voice  grew 
solemn.  "Mr.  Butterwick,"  he  said,  "it  seems  to  be  a  compound, 
agglutinated  infraction  of  the  upper  molar.  I'm  afraid  I  can't  do 
anything  about  it  tonight." 

"But-"  said  Lige. 

"But  here's  a  draught-that  will  ease  the  pain  for  a  while," 


A  Tooth  -for  Paul  Revere 

said  Revere,  and  poured  some  medicine  into  a  cup.  "Drink!"  he 
said,  and  Lige  drank.  The  draught  was  red  and  spicy,  with  a 
queer,  sleepy  taste,  but  pungent.  It  wasn't  like  anything  Lige 
had  ever  tasted  before,  but  he  noticed  it  eased  the  pain. 

"There,"  said  Revere.  "And  now  you  go  to  a  tavern  and  get 
a  good  night's  rest.  Come  back  to  see  me  in  the  morning— I'll 
find  a  tooth-drawer  for  you,  if  I'm  here.  And—oh  yes— you'd 
better  have  some  liniment." 

He  started  to  rummage  in  a  big  cupboard  at  the  back  of  the 
shop.  It  was  dark  now,  with  the  end  of  day  and  the  shutters 
up,  and  whether  it  was  the  tooth,  or  the  tiredness,  or  the  draught 
Paul  Revere  had  given  him,  Lige  began  to  feel  a  little  queer. 
There  was  a  humming  in  his  head  and  a  lightness  in  his  feet. 
He  got  up  and  stood  looking  over  Paul  Revere's  shoulder,  and 
it  seemed  to  him  that  things  moved  and  scampered  in  that  cup- 
board in  a  curious  way,  as  Revere's  quick  nngers  took  down 
this  box  and  that.  And  the  shop  was  full  of  shadows  and  mur- 

"It's  a  queer  kind  of  shop  you've  got  here,  Mr.  Revere,"  he 
said,  glad  to  hear  the  sound  of  his  own  voice. 

"Well,  some  people  think  so,"  said  Revere— and  that  time  Lige 
was  almost  sure  he  saw  something  move  in  the  cupboard.  He 
coughed.  "Say— what's  in  that  little  bottle?"  he  said,  to  keep  his 
mind  steady. 

"That?"  said  Paul  Revere,  with  a  smile,  and  held  the  bottle 
up.  "Oh,  that's  a  little  chemical  experiment  of  mine.  I  call  it 
Essence  of  Boston.  But  there's  a  good  deal  of  East  Wind  in  it." 

"Essence  of  Boston,"  said  Lige,  with  his  eyes  bulging.  "Well, 
they  did  say  you  was  a  wizard.  It's  gen-u-wine  magic,  I  sup- 

"Genuine  magic,  of  course,"  said  Revere,  with  a  chuckle.  "And 
here's  the  box  with  your  liniment.  And  here—" 

He  took  down  two  little  boxes— a  silver  and  a  pewter  one— 
and  placed  them  on  the  counter.  But  Lige's  eyes  went  to  the  sil- 
ver one— they  were  drawn  to  it,  though  he  couldn't  have  told 
you  why. 

"Pick  it  up,"  said  Paul  Revere,  and  Lige  did  so  and  turned  it 
in  his  hands.  It  was  a  handsome  box.  He  could  make  out  a  grow- 
ing tree  and  an  eagle  fighting  a  lion.  "It's  mighty  pretty  work," 
he  said. 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"It's  my  own  design,"  said  Paul  Revere.  "See  the  stars  around 
the  edge—thirteen  ot  them?  You  could  make  a  very  pretty  de- 
sign with  stars— for  a  new  country,  say— if  you  wanted  to— I've 
sometimes  thought  of  it.'7 

"But  what's  in  it?"  said  Lige. 

"What's  in  it?"  said  Paul  Revere,  and  his  voice  was  light  but 
steely.  "Why,  what's  in  the  air  around  us?  Gunpowder  and  war 
and  the  making  of  a  new  nation.  But  the  time  isn't  quite  ripe  yet 
—not  quite  ripe." 

"You  mean,"  said  Lige,  and  he  looked  at  the  box  very  respect- 
ful, "that  this-here  revolution  folks  keep  talking  about—" 

"Yes,"  said  Paul  Revere,  and  he  was  about  to  go  on.  But  just 
then  his  boy  ran  in,  with  a  letter  in  his  hand. 

"Master!"  he  said.  "A  message  from  Dr.  Warren!" 


Well,  with  that  Revere  started  moving,  and,  when  he  started 
to  move,  he  moved  fast.  He  was  calling  for  his  riding  boots  in 
one  breath  and  telling  Lige  Butterwick  to  come  back  tomorrow 
in  another— and,  what  with  all  the  bustle  and  confusion,  Lige 
Butterwick  nearly  went  off  without  his  liniment  after  all.  But 
he  grabbed  up  a  box  from  the  counter,  just  as  Revere  was  prac- 
tically shoving  him  out  of  the  door— and  it  wasn't  till  he'd  got 
to  his  tavern  and  gone  to  bed  for  the  night  that  he  found  out 
he'd  taken  the  wrong  box. 

He  found  it  out  then  because,  when  he  went  to  bed,  he  couldn't 
get  to  sleep.  It  wasn't  his  tooth  that  bothered  him— that  had 
settled  to  a  kind  of  dull  ache  and  he  could  have  slept  through 
that.  But  his  mind  kept  going  over  all  the  events  of  the  day— 
the  two  folks  he'd  seen  at  Parson  Clarke's  and  being  chased  by 
the  British  and  what  Revere  had  said  to  the  turkey-gobbler 
woman— till  he  couldn't  get  any  peace.  He  could  feel  some- 
thing stirring  in  him,  though  he  didn't  know  what  it  was. 

"  'Tain't  right  to  have  soldiers  chase  a  fellow  down  the  street," 
he  said  to  himself.  "And  'tain't  right  to  have  people  like  that 
woman  run  down  New  England.  No,  it  ain't.  Oh  me— I  better 
look  for  that  liniment  of  Mr.  Revere's." 

So  he  got  up  from  his  bed  and  went  over  and  found  his  coat. 


A  Tooth  for  Paul  Revere 

Then  he  reached  his  hand  in  the  pocket  and  pulled  out  the  silver 

Well,  at  first  he  was  so  flustrated  that  he  didn't  know  rightly 
what  to  do.  For  here,  as  well  as  he  could  remember  it,  was  gun- 
powder and  war  and  the  makings  of  a  new  nation— the  revolution 
itself,  shut  up  in  a  silver  box  by  Paul  Revere.  He  mightn't  have 
believed  there  could  be  such  things  before  he  came  to  Boston. 
But  now  he  did. 

The  draught  was  still  humming  in  his  head,  and  his  legs  felt 
a  mite  wobbly.  But,  being  human,  he  was  curious.  "Now,  I  won- 
der what  is  inside  that  box,"  he  said. 

He  shook  the  box  and  handled  it,  but  that  seemed  to  make  it 
warmer,  as  if  there  was  something  alive  inside  it,  so  he  stopped 
that  mighty  quick.  Then  he  looked  all  over  it  for  a  keyhole,  but 
there  wasn't  any  keyhole,  and,  if  there  had  been,  he  didn't  have 
a  key. 

Then  he  put  his  ear  to  the  box  and  listened  hard.  And  it  seemed 
to  him  that  he  heard,  very  tiny  and  far  away,  inside  the  box, 
the  rolling  fire  of  thousands  of  tiny  muskets  and  the  tiny,  far- 
away cheers  of  many  men.  "Hold  your  fire!"  he  heard  a  voice 
say.  "Don't  fire  till  you're  fired  on— but,  if  they  want  a  war,  let  it 
begin  here!"  And  then  there  was  a  rolling  of  drums  and  a  squeal 
of  fifes.  It  was  small,  still,  and  far  away,  but  it  made  him  shake 
all  over,  for  he  knew  he  was  listening  to  something  in  the  future 
—and  something  that  he  didn't  have  a  right  to  hear.  He  sat  down 
on  the  edge  of  his  bed,  with  the  box  in  his  hands. 

"Now,  what  am  I  going  to  do  with  this?"  he  said.  "It's  too  big 
a  job  for  one  man." 

Well,  he  thought,  kind  of  scared,  of  going  down  to  the  river 
and  throwing  the  box  in,  but,  when  he  thought  of  doing  it,  he 
knew  he  couldn't.  Then  he  thought  of  his  farm  near  Lexington 
and  the  peaceful  days.  Once  the  revolution  was  out  of  the  box, 
there 'd  be  an  end  to  that.  But  then  he  remembered  what  Revere 
had  said  when  he  was  talking  with  the  woman  about  the  silver— 
the  thing  about  building  a  new  country  and  building  it  clean 
and  plain.  "Why,  I'm  not  a  Britisher,"  he  thought.  "I'm  a  New 
Englander.  And  maybe  there's  something  beyond  that— some- 
thing people  like  Hancock  and  Adams  know  about.  And,  if  it 
has  to  come  with  a  revolution— well,  I  guess  it  has  to  come.  We 
can't  stay  Britishers  forever,  here  in  this  country." 

Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

He  listened  to  the  box  again,  and  now  there  wasn't  any  shoot- 
ing in  it— just  a  queer  tune  played  on  a  fife.  He  didn't  know  the 
name  of  the  tune,  but  it  lifted  his  heart. 

He  got  up,  sort  of  slow  and  heavy.  "I  guess  I'll  have  to  take 
this  back  to  Paul  Revere,"  he  said. 

Well,  the  first  place  he  went  was  Dr.  Warren's,  having  heard 
Revere  mention  it,  but  he  didn't  get  much  satisfaction  there.  It 
took  quite  a  while  to  convince  them  that  he  wasn't  a  spy,  and, 
when  he  did,  all  they'd  tell  him  was  that  Revere  had  gone  over 
the  river  to  Charlestown.  So  he  went  down  to  the  waterfront 
to  look  for  a  boat.  And  the  first  person  he  met  was  a  very  angry 

"No,"  she  said,  "you  don't  get  any  boats  from  me.  There  was 
a  crazy  man  along  here  an  hour  ago  and  he  wanted  a  boat,  too, 
and  my  husband  was  crazy  enough  to  take  him.  And  then,  do  you 
know  what  he  did?" 

"No,  mam,"  said  Lige  Butterwick. 

"He  made  my  husband  take  my  best  petticoat  to  muffle  the 
oars  so  they  wouldn't  make  a  splash  when  they  went  past  that 
Britisher  ship,"  she  said,  pointing  out  where  the  man-of-war 
Somerset  lay  at  anchor.  "My  best  petticoat,  I  tell  you!  And  when 
my  husband  comes  back  he'll  get  a  piece  of  my  mind!" 

"Was  his  name  Revere?"  said  Lige  Butterwick.  "Was  he  a 
man  of  forty-odd,  keen-looking  and  kind  of  Frenchy?" 

"I  don't  know  what  his  right  name  is,"  said  the  woman,  "but 
his  name's  mud  with  me.  My  best  petticoat  tore  into  strips  and 
swimming  in  that  nasty  river!"  And  that  was  all  he  could  get 
out  of  her. 

All  the  same,  he  managed  to  get  a  boat  at  last— the  story  doesn't 
say  how— and  row  across  the  river.  The  tide  was  at  young  flood 
and  the  moonlight  bright  on  the  water,  and  he  passed  under  the 
shadow  of  the  Somerset,  right  where  Revere  had  passed.  When 
he  got  to  the  Charlestown  side,  he  could  see  the  lanterns  in 
North  Church,  though  he  didn't  know  what  they  signified.  Then 
he  told  the  folks  at  Charlestown  he  had  news  for  Revere  and 
they  got  him  a  horse  and  so  he  started  to  ride.  And,  all  the  while, 
the  silver  box  was  burning  his  pocket. 

Well,  he  lost  his  way  more  or  less^  as  you  well  might  in  the 
darkness,  and  it  was  dawn  when  he  came  into  Lexington  by  a 


A  Tooth  for  Paul  Revere 

side  road.  The  dawn  in  that  country's  pretty,  with  the  dew  still 
on  the  grass.  But  he  wasn't  looking  at  the  dawn.  He  was  feeling 
the  box  burn  his  pocket  and  thinking  hard. 

Then,  all  of  a  sudden,  he  reined  up  his  tired  horse.  For  there, 
on  the  side  road,  were  two  men  carrying  a  trunk—and  one  of 
them  was  Paul  Revere. 

They  looked  at  each  other  and  Lige  began  to  grin.  For  Revere 
was  just  as  dirty  and  mud-splashed  as  he  was— he'd  warned  Han- 
cock and  Adams  all  right,  but  then,  on  his  way  to  Concord,  he'd 
got  caught  by  the  British  and  turned  loose  again.  So  he'd  gone 
back  to  Lexington  to  see  how  things  were  there— and  now  he  and 
the  other  fellow  were  saving  a  trunk  of  papers  that  Hancock 
had  left  behind,  so  they  wouldn't  fall  into  the  hands  of  the 

Lige  swung  off  his  horse.  "Well,  Mr.  Revere,"  he  said,  "you 
see,  I'm  on  time  for  that  little  appointment  about  my  tooth.  And, 
by  the  way,  I've  got  something  for  you."  He  took  the  box  from 
his  pocket.  And  then  he  looked  over  toward  Lexington  Green 
and  caught  his  breath.  For,  on  the  Green,  there  was  a  little  line 
of  Minute  Men— neighbors  of  his,  as  he  knew— and,  in  front  of 
them,  the  British  regulars.  And,  even  as  he  looked,  there  was 
the  sound  of  a  gunshot,  and,  suddenly,  smoke  wrapped  the  front 
of  the  British  line  and  he  heard  them  shout  as  they  ran  forward. 

Lige  Butterwick  took  the  silver  box  and  stamped  on  it  with 
his  heel.  And  with  that  the  box  broke  open—and  there  was  a 
dazzle  in  his  eyes  for  a  moment  and  a  noise  of  men  shouting— 
and  then  it  was  gone. 

uDo  you  know  what  you've  done?"  said  Revere.  "You've  let 
out  the  American  Revolution!" 

"Well,"  said  Lige  Butterwick,  "I  guess  it  was  about  time.  And 
I  guess  I'd  better  be  going  home,  now.  I've  got  a  gun  on  the 
wall  there.  And  I'll  need  it." 

"But  what  about  your  tooth?"  said  Paul  Revere. 

"Oh,  a  tooth's  a  tooth,"  said  Lige  Butterwick.  "But  a  country's 
a  country.  And,  anyhow,  it's  stopped  aching." 

All  the  same,  they  say  Paul  Revere  made  a  silver  tooth  for  him, 
after  the  war.  But  my  great-aunt  wasn't  quite  sure  of  it,  so  I 
won't  vouch  for  that. 



It's  a  story  they  tell  in  the  border  country,  where  Massachu- 
setts joins  Vermont  and  New  Hampshire. 

Yes,  Dan'l  Webster's  dead— or,  at  least,  they  buried  him. 
But  every  time  there's  a  thunderstorm  around  Marshfield,  they 
say  you  can  hear  his  rolling  voice  in  the  hollows  of  the  sky.  And 
they  say  that  if  you  go  to  his  grave  and  speak  loud  and  clear, 
"Dan'l  Webster—Danl  Webster! "  the  ground!!  begin  to  shiver 
and  the  trees  begin  to  shake.  And  after  a  while  you'll  hear  a 
deep  voice  saying,  "Neighbor,  how  stands  the  Union?"  Then 
you  better  answer  the  Union  stands  as  she  stood,  rock-bottomed 
and  copper-sheathed,  one  and  indivisible,  or  he's  liable  to  rear 
right  out  of  the  ground.  At  least,  that's  what  I  was  told  when  I 
was  a  youngster. 

You  see,  for  a  while,  he  was  the  biggest  man  in  the  country. 
He  never  got  to  be  President,  but  he  was  the  biggest  man.  There 
were  thousands  that  trusted  in  him  right  next  to  God  Almighty, 
and  they  told  stories  about  him  that  were  like  the  stories  of 
patriarchs  and  such.  They  said,  when  he  stood  up  to  speak,  stars 
and  stripes  came  right  out  in  the  sky,  and  once  he  spoke  against 
a  river  and  made  it  sink  into  the  ground.  They  said,  when  he 
walked  the  woods  with  his  fishing  rod,  Killall,  the  trout  would 
jump  out  of  the  streams  right  into  his  pockets,  for  they  knew  it 
was  no  use  putting  up  a  fight  against  him;  and,  when  he  argued  a 
case,  he  could  turn  on  the  harps  of  the  blessed  and  the  shaking 
of  the  earth  underground.  That  was  the  kind  of  man  he  was, 
and  his  big  farm  up  at  Marshfield  was  suitable  to  him.  The  chick- 
ens he  raised  were  all  white  meat  down  through  the  drumsticks, 
the  cows  were  tended  like  children,  and  the  big  ram  he  called 
Goliath  had  horns  with  a  curl  like  a  morning-glory  vine  and 
could  butt  through  an  iron  door.  But  Dan'l  wasn't  one  of  your 
gentlemen  farmers;  he  knew  all  the  ways  of  the  land,  and  he'd 
be  up  by  candlelight  to  see  that  the  chores  got  done.  A  man 
with  a  mouth  like  a  mastiff,  a  brow  like  a  mountain  and  eyes 
like  burning  anthracite—that  was  Dan'l  Webster  in  his  prime. 
And  the  biggest  case  he  argued  never  got  written  down  in  the 
books,  for  he  argued  it  against  the  devil,  nip  and  tuck  and  no 
holds  barred.  And  this  is  the  way  I  used  to  hear  it  told. 

The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster 

There  was  a  man  named  Jabez  Stone,  lived  at  Cross  Corners, 
New  Hampshire.  He  wasn't  a  bad  man  to  start  with,  but  he 
was  an  unlucky  man.  If  he  planted  corn,  he  got  borers;  if  he 
slanted  potatoes,  he  got  blight.  He  had  good-enough  land,  but 
it  didn't  prosper  him;  he  had  a  decent  wife  and  children,  but 
che  more  children  he  had,  the  less  there  was  to  feed  them.  If 
stones  cropped  up  in  his  neighbor's  field,  boulders  boiled  up  in 
his;  if  he  had  a  horse  with  the  spavins,  he'd  trade  it  for  one  with 
the  staggers  and  give  something  extra.  There's  some  folks  bound 
to  be  like  that,  apparently.  But  one  day  Jabez  Stone  got  sick  of 
the  whole  business. 

He'd  been  plowing  that  morning  and  he'd  just  broke  the  plow- 
share on  a  rock  that  he  could  have  sworn  hadn't  been  there  yes- 
terday. And,  as  he  stood  looking  at  the  plowshare,  the  off  horsfe 
began  to  cough— that  ropy  kind  of  cough  that  means  sickness 
and  horse  doctors.  There  were  two  children  down  with  the 
measles,  his  wife  was  ailing,  and  he  had  a  whitlow  on  his  thumb. 
It  was  about  the  last  straw  for  Jabez  Stone.  "I  vow,"  he  said, 
and  he  looked  around  him  kind  of  desperate— "I  vow  it's  enough 
to  make  a  man  want  to  sell  his  soul  to  the  devil!  And  I  would, 
too,  for  two  cents!" 

Then  he  felt  a  kind  of  queerness  come  over  him  at  having 
said  what  he'd  said;  though,  naturally,  being  a  New  Hampshire- 
man,  he  wouldn't  take  it  back.  But,  all  the  same,  when  it  got  to 
be  evening  and,  as  far  as  he  could  sec,  no  notice  had  been  taken, 
he  felt  relieved  in  his  mind,  for  he  was  a  religious  man.  But 
notice  is  always  taken,  sooner  or  later,  just  like  the  Good  Book 
says.  And,  sure  enough,  next  day,  about  suppertime,  a  soft- 
spoken,  dark-dressed  stranger  drove  up  in  a  handsome  buggy  and 
asked  for  Jabez  Stone. 

Well,  Jabez  told  his  family  it  was  a  lawyer,  come  to  see  him 
about  a  legacy.  But  he  knew  who  it  was.  He  didn't  like  the  looks 
of  the  stranger,  nor  the  way  he  smiled  with  his  teeth.  They  were 
white  teeth,  and  plentiful— some  say  they  were  filed  to  a  point, 
but  I  wouldn't  vouch  for  that.  And  he  didn't  like  it  when  the 
dog  took  one  look  at  the  stranger  and  ran  away  howling,  with 
his  tail  between  his  legs.  But  having  passed  his  word,  more  or 
less,  he  stuck  to  it,  and  they  went  out  behind  the  barn  and  made 
their  bargain.  Jabez  Stone  had  to  prick  his  finger  to  sign,  and 


Stephen  Vincent  Benh 

the  stranger  lent  him  a  silver  pin.  The  wound  healed  clean,  but 
it  left  a  little  white  scar. 

After  that,  all  of  a  sudden,  things  began  to  pick  up  and  pros- 
per for  Jabez  Stone.  His  cows  got  fat  and  his  horses  sleek,  his 
crops  were  the  envy  of  the  neighborhood,  and  lightning  might 
strike  all  over  the  valley,  but  it  wouldn't  strike  his  barn.  Pretty 
soon,  he  was  one  of  the  prosperous  people  of  the  county;  they 
asked  him  to  stand  for  selectman,  and  he  stood  for  it;  there  began 
to  be  talk  of  running  him  for  state  senate.  All  in  all,  you  might 
say  the  Stone  family  was  as  happy  and  contented  as  cats  in  a 
dairy.  And  so  they  were,  except  for  Jabez  Stone. 

He'd  been  contented  enough,  the  first  few  years.  It's  a  great 
thing  when  bad  luck  turns;  it  drives  most  other  things  out  of 
your  head.  True,  every  now  and  then,  especially  in  rainy  weather, 
the  little  white  scar  on  his  finger  would  give  him  a  twinge.  And 
once  a  year,  punctual  as  clockwork,  the  stranger  with  the  hand- 
some buggy  would  come  driving  by.  But  the  sixth  year,  the 
stranger  lighted,  and,  after  that,  his  peace  was  over  tor  Jabez 

The  stranger  came  up  through  the  lower  field,  switching  his 
boots  with  a  cane— they  were  handsome  black  boots,  but  Jabez 
Stone  never  liked  the  look  of  them,  particularly  the  toes.  And, 
after  he'd  passed  the  time  of  day,  he  said,  "Well,  Mr.  Stone, 
you're  a  hummer!  It's  a  very  pretty  property  you've  got  here, 
Mr.  Stone." 

"Well,  some  might  favor  it  and  others  might  not,"  said  Jabez 
Stone,  for  he  was  a  New  Hampshireman. 

"Oh,  no  need  to  decry  your  industry!"  said  the  stranger,  very 
easy,  showing  his  teeth  in  a  smile.  "After  all,  we  know  what's 
been  done,  and  it's  been  according  to  contract  and  specifications. 
So  when— ahem— the  mortgage  falls  due  next  year,  you  shouldn't 
have  any  regrets." 

"Speaking  of  that  mortgage,  mister,"  said  Jabez  Stone,  and  he 
looked  around  for  help  to  the  earth  and  the  sky,  "I'm  beginning 
to  have  one  or  two  doubts  about  it." 

"Doubts?"  said  the  stranger,  not  quite  so  pleasantly. 

"Why,  yes,"  said  Jabez  Stone.  "This  being  the  U.S.A.  and  me 
always  having  been  a  religious  man."  He  cleared  his  throat  and 
got  bolder.  "Yes,  sir,"  he  said,  "I'm  beginning  to  have  consider- 
able doubts  as  to  that  mortgage  holding  in  court." 


The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster 

"There's  courts  and  courts,"  said  the  stranger,  clicking  his 
teeth.  "Still,  we  might  as  well  have  a  look  at  the  original  docu- 
ment." And  he  hauled  out  a  big  black  pocketbook,  full  of  papers, 
"Sherwin,  Slater,  Stevens,  Stone,"  he  muttered.  "1,  Jabez  Stonev 
for  a  term  of  seven  years —  Oh,  it's  quite  in  order,  I  think." 

But  Jabez  Stone  wasn't  listening,  for  he  saw  something  else 
flutter  out  of  the  black  pocketbook.  It  was  something  that  looked 
like  a  moth,  but  it  wasn't  a  moth.  And  as  Jabez  Stone  stared  at 
it,  it  seemed  to  speak  to  him  in  a  small  sort  of  piping  voice,  ter- 
rible small  and  thin,  but  terrible  human.  "Neighbor  Stone!"  it 
squeaked.  "Neighbor  Stone!  Help  me!  For  God's  sake,  help  me!" 
But  before  Jabez  Stone  could  stir  hand  or  foot,  the  stranger 
whipped  out  a  big  bandanna  handkerchief,  caught  the  creature 
in  it,  just  like  a  butterfly,  and  started  tying  up  the  ends  of  the 

"Sorry  for  the  interruption,"  he  said.  "As  I  was  saying — " 
But  Jabez  Stone  was  shaking  all  over  like  a  scared  horse. 
"That's  Miser  Stevens'  voice!"  he  said,  in  a  croak.  "And  you've 
got  him  in  your  handkerchief!" 

The  stranger  looked  a  little  embarrassed. 
"Yes,  I  really  should  have  transferred  him  to  the  collecting 
box,"  he  said  with  a  simper,  "but  there  were  some  rather  unusual 
specimens  there  and  I  didn't  want  them  crowded.  Well,  well, 
these  little  contretemps  will  occur." 

"I  don't  know  what  you  mean  by  contemn,"  said  Jabez  Stone, 
"but  that  was  Miser  Stevens'  voice!  And  he  ain't  dead!  You  can't 
tell  me  he  is!  He  was  just  as  spry  and  mean  as  a  woodchuck, 

"In  the  midst  of  life—"  said  the  stranger,  kind  of  pious.  "Lis- 
ten!" Then  a  bell  began  to  toll  in  the  valley  and  Jabez  Stone 
listened,  with  the  sweat  running  down  his  face.  For  he  knew 
it  was  tolled  for  Miser  Stevens  and  that  he  was  dead. 

"These  *ong-standing  accounts,"  said  the  stranger  with  a  sigh; 
"one  really  hates  to  close  them.  But  business  is  business." 

He  stil^  had  the  bandanna  in  his  hand,  and  Jabez  Stone  felt 
sick  as  be  saw  the  cloth  struggle  and  flutter. 

"Are  they  all  as  small  as  that?"  he  asked  hoarsely. 
"Small?"  said  the  stranger.  "Oh,  I  see  what  you  mean.  Why, 
they  vary."  He  measured  Jabez  Stone  with  nis  eyes,  and  his 
teeth  showed.  "Don't  worry,  Mr.  Stone,"  he  said.  "You'll  go  with 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

a  very  good  grade.  I  wouldn't  trust  you  outside  the  collecting 
box.  Now,  a  man  like  Dan'l  Webster,  of  course— well,  we'd  have 
to  build  a  special  box  for  him,  and  even  at  that,  I  imagine  the 
wing  spread  would  astonish  you.  But,  in  your  case,  as  I  was  say- 
ing— " 

"Put  that  handkerchief  away!"  said  Jabez  Stone,  and  he  began 
to  beg  and  to  pray.  But  the  best  he  could  get  at  the  end  was  a 
three  years'  extension,  with  conditions. 

But  till  you  make  a  bargain  like  that,  you've  got  no  idea  of 
how  fast  four  years  can  run.  By  the  last  months  of  those  years, 
Jabez  Stone's  known  all  over  the  state  and  there's  talk  of  run- 
ning him  for  governor— and  it's  dust  and  ashes  in  his  mouth. 
For  every  day,  when  he  gets  up,  he  thinks,  "There's  one  more 
night  gone,"  and  every  night  when  he  lies  down,  he  thinks  of 
the  black  pocketbook  and  the  soul  of  Miser  Stevens,  and  it  makes 
him  sick  at  heart.  Till,  finally,  he  can't  bear  it  any  longer,  and, 
in  the  last  days  of  the  last  year,  he  hitches  up  his  horse  and 
drives  off  to  seek  Dan'l  Webster.  For  Dan'l  v/as  born  in  New 
Hampshire,  only  a  few  miles  from  Cross  Corners,  and  it's  well 
known  that  he  has  a  particular  soft  spot  for  old  neighbors. 

It  was  early  in  the  morning  when  he  got  to  Marshfield,  but 
Dan'l  was  up  already,  talking  Latin  to  the  farm  hands  and 
wrestling  with  the  ram,  Goliath,  and  trying  out  a  new  trotter 
and  working  up  speeches  to  make  against  John  C.  Calhoun.  But 
when  he  heard  a  New  Hampshireman  had  come  to  see  him,  he 
dropped  everything  else  he  was  doing,  for  that  was  Dan'l's  way. 
He  gave  Jabez  Stone  a  breakfast  that  five  men  couldn't  eat,  went 
into  the  living  history  of  every  man  and  woman  in  Cross  Cor- 
ners, and  finally  asked  him  how  he  could  serve  him. 

Jabez  Stone  allowed  that  it  was  a  kind  of  mortgage  case. 

"Well,  I  haven't  pleaded  a  mortgage  case  in  a  long  time,  and 
I  don't  generally  plead  now,  except  before  the  Supreme  Court," 
said  Dan'l,  "but  if  I  can,  I'll  help  you." 

"Then  I've  got  hope  for  the  first  time  in  ten  years,"  said 
Jabez  Stone,  and  told  him  the  details. 

Dan'l  walked  up  and  down  as  he  listened,  hands  behind  his 
back,  now  and  then  asking  a  question,  now  and  then  plunging 
his  eyes  at  the  floor,  as  if  they'd  bore  through  it  like  gimlets. 
When  Jabez  Stone  had  finished,  Dan'l  puffed  out  his  cheeks  and 


The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster 

blew.  Then  he  turned  to  Jabez  Stone  and  a  smile  broke  over 
his  face  like  the  sunrise  over  Monadnock. 

"You've  certainly  given  yourself  the  devil's  own  row  to  hoe, 
Neighbor  Stone,"  he  said,  "but  I'll  take  your  case." 

"You'll  take  it?"  said  Jabez  Stone,  hardly  daring  to  believe. 

"Yes,"  said  Dan'l  Webster.  "I've  got  about  seventy-five  other 
things  to  do  and  the  Missouri  Compromise  to  straighten  out, 
but  I'll  take  your  case.  For  if  two  New  Hampshiremen  aren't  a 
match  for  the  devil,  we  might  as  well  give  the  country  back  to 
the  Indians." 

Then  he  shook  Jabez  Stone  by  the  hand  and  said,  "Did  you 
come  down  here  in  a  hurry?" 

"Well,  I  admit  I  made  time,"  said  Jabez  Stone. 

"You'll  go  back  faster,"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  and  he  told  'em 
to  hitch  up  Constitution  and  Constellation  to  the  carriage.  They 
were  matched  grays  with  one  white  forefoot,  and  they  stepped 
like  greased  lightning. 

Well,  I  won't  describe  how  excited  and  pleased  the  whole 
Stone  family  was  to  have  the  great  Dan'l  Webster  for  a  guest, 
when  they  finally  got  there.  Jabez  Stone  had  lost  his  hat  on  the 
way,  blown  off  when  they  overtook  a  wind,  but  he  didn't  take 
much  account  of  that.  But  after  supper  he  sent  the  family  off 
to  bed,  for  he  had  most  particular  business  with  Mr.  Webster. 
Mrs.  Stone  wanted  them  to  sit  in  the  front  parlor,  but  Dan'l 
Webster  knew  front  parlors  and  said  he  preferred  the  kitchen. 
So  it  was  there  they  sat,  waiting  for  the  stranger,  with  a  jug 
on  the  table  between  them  and  a  bright  fire  on  the  hearth— the 
stranger  being  scheduled  to  show  up  on  the  stroke  of  midnight, 
according  to  specifications. 

Well,  most  men  wouldn't  have  asked  for  better  company  than 
Dan'l  Webster  and  a  jug.  But  with  every  tick  of  the  clock  Jabez 
Stone  got  sadder  and  sadder.  His  eyes  roved  round,  and  though 
he  sampled  the  jug  you  could  see  he  couldn't  taste  it.  Finally, 
on  the  stroke  of  1 1 : 30  he  reached  over  and  grabbed  Dan'l  Web- 
ster by  the  arm. 

"Mr.  Webster,  Mr.  Webster! "  he  said,  and  his  voice  was  shak- 
ing with  fear  and  a  desperate  courage.  "For  God's  sake,  Mr. 
Webster,  harness  your  horses  and  get  away  from  this  place  while 

you  can!" 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"You've  brought  me  a  long  way,  neighbor,  to  tell  me  you  don't 
like  my  company,"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  quite  peaceable,  pulling 
at  the  jug. 

"Miserable  wretch  that  I  am!"  groaned  Jabez  Stone.  "I've 
brought  you  a  devilish  way,  and  now  I  see  my  folly.  Let  him 
take  me  if  he  wills.  I  don't  hanker  after  it,  I  must  say,  but  I  can 
stand  it.  But  you're  the  Union's  stay  and  New  Hampshire's 
pride!  He  mustn't  get  you,  Mr.  Webster!  He  mustn't  get  you!" 

Dan'l  Webster  looked  at  the  distracted  man,  all  gray  and  shak- 
ing in  the  firelight,  and  laid  a  hand  on  his  shoulder. 

"I'm  obliged  to  you,  Neighbor  Stone,"  he  said  gently.  "It's 
kindly  thought  of.  But  there's  a  jug  on  the  table  and  a  case  in 
hand.  And  I  never  left  a  jug  or  a  case  half  finished  in  my  life." 

And  just  at  that  moment  there  was  a  sharp  rap  on  the  door. 

"Ah,"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  very  coolly,  "I  thought  your  clock 
was  a  trifle  slow,  Neighbor  Stone."  He  stepped  to  the  door  and 
opened  it.  "Come  in! "  he  said. 

The  stranger  came  in— very  dark  and  tall  he  looked  in  the  fire- 
light. He  was  carrying  a  box  under  his  arm— a  black,  japanned 
box  with  little  air  holes  in  the  lid.  At  the  sight  of  the  box,  Jabez 
Stone  gave  a  low  cry  and  shrank  into  a  corner  of  the  room. 

"Mr.  Webster,  I  presume,"  said  the  stranger,  very  polite,  but 
with  his  eyes  glowing  like  a  fox's  deep  in  the  woods. 

"Attorney  of  record  for  Jabez  Stone,"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  but 
his  eyes  were  glowing  too.  "Might  I  ask  your  name?" 

"I've  gone  by  a  good  many,"  said  the  stranger  carelessly.  "Per- 
haps Scratch  will  do  for  the  evening.  I'm  often  called  that  in 
these  regions." 

Then  he  sat  down  at  the  table  and  poured  himself  a  drink 
from  the  jug.  The  liquor  was  cold  in  the  jug,  but  it  came  steam- 
ing into  the  glass. 

"And  now,"  said  the  stranger,  smiling  and  showing  his  teeth, 
"I  shall  call  upon  you,  as  a  law-abiding  citizen,  to  assist  me  in 
taking  possession  of  my  property." 

Well,  with  that  the  argument  began—and  it  went  hot  and 
heavy.  At  first,  Jabez  Stone  had  a  flicker  of  hope,  but  when  he 
saw  Dan'l  Webster  being  forced  back  at  point  after  point,  he 
just  scrunched  in  his  corner,  with  his  eyes  on  that  japanned  box. 
For  there  wasn't  any  doubt  as  to  the  deed  or  the  signature- 
that  was  the  worst  of  it.  Dan'l  Webster  twisted  and  turned 


The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster 

and  thumped  his  fist  on  the  table,  but  he  couldn't  get  away  from 
that.  He  offered  to  compromise  the  case;  the  stranger  wouldn't 
hear  of  it.  He  pointed  out  the  property  had  increased  in  value, 
and  state  senators  ought  to  be  worth  more;  the  stranger  stuck 
to  the  letter  of  the  law.  He  was  a  great  lawyer,  Dan'l  Webster, 
but  we  know  who's  the  King  of  Lawyers,  as  the  Good  Book 
tells  us,  and  it  seemed  as  if,  for  the  first  time,  Dan'l  Webster  had 
met  his  match. 

Finally,  the  stranger  yawned  a  little.  "Your  spirited  efforts  on 
behalf  of  your  client  do  you  credit,  Mr.  Webster,"  he  said,  "but 
if  you  have  no  more  arguments  to  adduce,  I'm  rather  pressed  for 
time"— and  Jabez  Stone  shuddered. 

Dan'l  Webster's  brow  looked  dark  as  a  thundercloud. 

"Pressed  or  not,  you  shall  not  have  this  man!"  he  thundered. 
"Mr.  Stone  is  an  American  citizen,  and  no  American  citizen  may 
be  forced  into  the  service  of  a  foreign  prince.  We  fought  Eng- 
land for  that  in  '12  and  we'll  fight  all  hell  for  it  again!" 

"Foreign?"  said  the  stranger.  "And  who  calls  me  a  foreigner?" 

"Well,  I  never  yet  heard  of  the  dev— of  your  claiming  Ameri- 
can citizenship,"  said  Dan'l  Webster  with  surprise. 

"And  who  with  better  right?"  said  the  stranger,  with  one  of 
his  terrible  smiles.  "When  the  first  wrong  was  done  to  the  first 
Indian,  I  was  there.  When  the  first  slaver  put  out  for  the  Congo, 
I  stood  on  her  deck.  Am  I  not  in  your  books  and  stories  and 
beliefs,  from  the  first  settlements  on?  Am  I  not  spoken  of,  still, 
in  every  church  in  New  England?  'Tis  true  the  North  claims  me 
for  a  Southerner  and  the  South  for  a  Northerner,  but  I  am 
neither.  I  am  merely  an  honest  American  like  yourself— and  of 
the  best  descent— for,  to  tell  the  truth,  Mr.  Webster,  though  I 
don't  like  to  boast  of  it,  my  name  is  older  in  this  country  than 

"Aha!"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  with  the  veins  standing  out  in  his 
forehead.  "Then  I  stand  on  the  Constitution!  I  demand  a  trial 
for  my  client!" 

"The  case  is  hardly  one  for  an  ordinary  court,"  said  the 
stranger,  his  eyes  flickering.  "And,  indeed,  the  lateness  of  the 
hour — " 

"Let  it  be  any  court  you  choose,  so  it  is  an  American  judge 
and  an  American  jury!"  said  Dan'l  Webster  in  his  pride.  "Let  it 
be  the  quick  or  the  dead;  I'll  abide  the  issue!" 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"You  have  said  it,"  said  the  stranger,  and  pointed  his  finger  at 
the  door.  And  with  that,  and  all  of  a  sudden,  there  was  a  rushing 
of  wind  outside  and  a  noise  of  footsteps.  They  came,  clear  and 
distinct,  through  the  night.  And  yet,  they  were  not  like  the 
footsteps  of  living  men. 

"In  God's  name,  who  comes  by  so  late?"  cried  Jabez  Stone, 
in  an  ague  of  fear. 

"The  jury  Mr.  Webster  demands,"  said  the  stranger,  sipping 
at  his  boiling  glass.  "You  must  pardon  the  rough  appearance  of 
one  or  two;  they  will  have  come  a  long  way." 

And  with  that  the  fire  burned  blue  and  the  door  blew  open 
and  twelve  men  entered,  one  by  one. 

If  Jabez  Stone  had  been  sick  with  terror  before,  he  was  blind 
with  terror  now.  For  there  was  Walter  Butler,  the  loyalist,  who 
spread  fire  and  horror  through  the  Mohawk  Valley  in  the  times 
of  the  Revolution;  and  there  was  Simon  Girty,  the  renegade, 
who  saw  white  men  burned  at  the  stake  and  whooped  with  the 
Indians  to  see  them  burn.  His  eyes  were  green,  like  a  catamount's, 
and  the  stains  on  his  hunting  shirt  did  not  come  from  the  blood 
of  the  deer.  King  Philip  was  there,  wild  and  proud  as  he  had 
been  in  life,  with  the  great  gash  in  his  head  that  gave  him  his 
death  wound,  and  cruel  Governor  Dale,  who  broke  men  on  the 
wheel.  There  was  Morton  of  Merry  Mount,  who  so  vexed  the 
Plymouth  Colony,  with  his  flushed,  loose,  handsome  face  and 
his  hate  of  the  godly.  There  was  Teach,  the  bloody  pirate,  with 
his  black  beard  curling  on  his  breast.  The  Reverend  John  Smeet, 
with  his  strangler's  hands  and  his  Geneva  gown,  walked  as  dain- 
tily as  he  had  to  the  gallows.  The  red  print  of  the  rope  was  still 
around  his  neck,  but  he  carried  a  perfumed  handkerchief  in  one 
hand.  One  and  all,  they  came  into  the  room  with  the  fires  of 
hell  still  upon  them,  and  the  stranger  named  their  names  and 
their  deeds  as  they  came,  till  the  tale  of  twelve  was  told.  Yet  the 
stranger  had  told  the  truth— they  had  all  played  a  part  in  Amer- 

"Are  you  satisfied  with  the  jury,  Mr.  Webster?"  said  the 
stranger  mockingly,  when  they  had  taken  their  places. 

The  sweat  stood  upon  Dan'l  Webster's  brow,  but  his  voice 
was  clear. 

"Quite  satisfied,"  he  said.  "Though  I  miss  General  Arnold  from 
the  company." 


The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster 

"Benedict  Arnold  is  engaged  upon  other  business,"  said  the 
stranger,  with  a  glower.  "Ah,  you  asked  for  a  justice,  I  believe." 

He  pointed  his  finger  once  more,  and  a  tall  man,  soberly  clad 
in  Puritan  garb,  with  the  burning  gaze  of  the  fanatic,  stalked 
into  the  room  and  took  his  judge's  place. 

"Justice  Hathorne  is  a  jurist  of  experience,"  said  the  stranger. 
"He  presided  at  certain  witch  trials  once  held  in  Salem.  There 
were  others  who  repented  of  the  business  later,  but  not  he." 

"Repent  of  such  notable  wonders  and  undertakings?"  said  the 
stern  old  justice.  "Nay,  hang  them—hang  them  all!"  And  he  mut- 
tered to  himself  in  a  way  that  struck  ice  into  the  soul  of  Jabez 

Then  the  trial  began,  and,  as  you  might  expect,  it  didn't  look 
anyways  good  for  the  defense.  And  Jabez  Stone  didn't  make 
much  of  a  witness  in  his  own  behalf.  He  took  one  look  at  Simon 
Girty  and  screeched,  and  they  had  to  put  him  back  in  his  corner 
in  a  kind  of  swoon. 

It  didn't  halt  the  trial,  though;  the  trial  went  on,  as  trials  do. 
Dan'l  Webster  had  faced  some  hard  juries  and  hanging  judges 
in  his  time,  but  this  was  the  hardest  he'd  ever  faced,  and  he  knew 
it.tThey  sat  there  with  a  kind  of  glitter  in  their  eyes,  and  the 
stranger's  smooth  voice  went  on  and  on.  Every  time  he'd  raise 
an  objection,  it'd  be  "Objection  sustained,"  but  whenever  Dan'l 
objected,  it'd  be  "Objection  denied."  Well,  you  couldn't  expect 
fair  play  from  a  fellow  like  this  Mr.  Scratch. 

It  got  to  Dan'l  in  the  end,  and  he  began  to  heat,  like  iron 
in  the  forge.  When  he  got  up  to  speak  he  was  going  to  flay  that 
stranger  with  every  trick  known  to  the  law,  and  the  judge  and 
jury  too.  He  didn't  care  if  it  was  contempt  of  court  or  what 
would  happen  to  him  for  it.  He  didn't  care  any  more  what  hap- 
pened to  Jabez  Stone.  He  just  got  madder  and  madder,  thinking 
of  what  he'd  say.  And  yet,  curiously  enough,  the  more  he  thought 
about  it,  the  less  he  was  able  to  arrange  his  speech  in  his  mind. 

Till,  finally,  it  was  time  for  him  to  get  up  on  his  feet,  and  he 
did  so,  all  ready  to  bust  out  with  lightnings  and  denunciations. 
But  before  he  started  he  looked  over  the  judge  and  jury  for  a 
moment,  such  being  his  custom.  And  he  noticed  the  glitter  in 
their  eyes  was  twice  as  strong  as  before,  and  they  all  leaned 
forward.  Like  hounds  just  before  they  get  the  fox,  they  looked, 
and  the  blue  mist  of  evil  in  the  room  thickened  as  he  watched 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

them.  Then  he  saw  what  he'd  been  about  to  do,  and  he  wiped 
his  forehead,  as  a  man  might  who's  just  escaped  falling  into  a 
pit  in  the  dark. 

For  it  was  him  they'd  come  for,  not  only  Jabez  Stone.  He  read 
it  in  the  glitter  of  their  eyes  and  in  the  way  the  stranger  hid  his 
mouth  with  one  hand.  And  if  he  fought  them  with  their  own 
weapons,  he'd  fall  into  their  power;  he  knew  that,  though  he 
couldn't  have  told  you  how.  It  was  his  own  anger  and  horror 
that  burned  in  their  eyes;  and  he'd  have  to  wipe  that  out  or 
the  case  was  lost.  He  stood  there  for  a  moment,  his  black  eyes 
burning  like  anthracite.  And  then  he  began  to  speak. 

He  started  off  in  a  low  voice,  though  you  could  hear  every 
word.  They  say  he  could  call  on  the  harps  of  the  blessed  when 
he  chose.  And  this  was  just  as  simple  and  easy  as  a  man  could 
talk.  But  he  didn't  start  out  by  condemning  or  reviling.  He  was 
talking  about  the  things  that  make  a  country  a  country,  and  a 
man  a  man. 

And  he  began  with  the  simple  things  that  everybody's  known 
and  felt— the  freshness  of  a  fine  morning  when  you're  young, 
and  the  taste  of  food  when  you're  hungry,  and  the  new  day 
that's  every  day  when  you're  a  child.  He  took  them  up  and  he 
turned  them  in  his  hands.  They  were  good  things  for  any  man, 
But  without  freedom,  they  sickened.  And  when  he  talked  of 
those  enslaved,  and  the  sorrows  of  slavery,  his  voice  got  like  a 
big  bell.  He  talked  of  the  early  days  of  America  and  the  men 
who  had  made  those  days.  It  wasn't  a  spread-eagle  speech,  but 
he  made  you  see  it.  He  admitted  all  the  wrong  that  had  ever 
been  done.  But  he  showed  how,  out  of  the  wrong  and  the  right, 
the  suffering  and  the  starvations,  something  new  had  come.  And 
everybody  had  played  a  part  in  it,  even  the  traitors. 

Then  he  turned  to  Jab'ez  Stone  and  showed  him  as  he  was— 
an  ordinary  man  who'd  had  hard  luck  and  wanted  to  change  it, 
And,  because  he'd  wanted  to  change  it,  now  he  was  going  to 
be  punished  for  all  eternity.  And  yet  there  was  good  in  Jabez 
Stone,  and  he  showed  that  good.  He  was  hard  and  mean,  in  some 
ways,  but  he  was  a  man.  There  was  sadness  in  being  a  man, 
but  it  was  a  proud  thing  too.  And  he  showed  what  the  pride 
of  it  was  till  you  couldn't  help  feeling  it.  Yes,  even  in  hell,  if  a 
man  was  a  man,  you'd  know  it.  And  he  wasn't  pleading  for  any 


The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster 

one  person  any  more,  though  his  voice  rang  like  an  organ.  He 
was  telling  the  story  and  the  failures  and  the  endless  journey 
of  mankind.  They  got  tricked  and  trapped  and  bamboozled,  but 
it  was  a  great  journey.  And  no  demon  that  was  ever  foaled 
could  know  the  inwardness  of  it— it  took  a  man  to  do  that. 

The  fire  began  to  die  on  the  hearth  and  the  wind  before  morn- 
ing to  blow.  The  light  was  getting  gray  in  the  room  when 
Dan'l  Webster  finished.  And  his  words  came  back  at  the  end  to 
New  Hampshire  ground,  and  the  one  spot  of  land  that  each 
man  loves  and  clings  to.  He  painted  a  picture  of  that,  and  to 
each  one  of  that  jury  he  spoke  of  things  long  forgotten.  For 
his  voice  could  search  the  heart,  and  that  was  his  gift  and  his 
strength.  And  to  one,  his  voice  was  like  the  forest  and  its  secrecy, 
and  to  another  like  the  sea  and  the  storms  of  the  sea;  and  one 
heard  the  cry  of  his  lost  nation  in  it,  and  another  saw  a  little 
harmless  scene  he  hadn't  remembered  for  years.  But  each  saw 
something.  And  when  Dan'l  Webster  finished  he  didn't  know 
whether  or  not  he'd  saved  Jabez  Stone.  But  he  knew  he'd  done 
a  miracle.  For  the  glitter  was  gone  from  the  eyes  of  judge 
and  jury,  and,  for  the  moment,  they  were  men  again,  and  knew 
they  were  men. 

"The  defense  rests,"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  and  stood  there  like 
a  mountain.  His  ears  were  still  ringing  with  his  speech,  and  he 
didn't  hear  anything  else  till  he  heard  Judge  Hathorne  say,  "The 
jury  will  retire  to  consider  its  verdict." 

Walter  Butler  rose  in  his  place  and  his  face  had  a  dark,  pay 
pride  on  it. 

"The  jury  has  considered  its  verdict,"  he  said,  and  looked  the 
stranger  full  in  the  eye.  "We  find  for  the  defendant,  Jabez 

With  that,  the  smile  left  the  stranger's  face,  but  Walter  But- 
ler did  not  flinch. 

"Perhaps  'tis  not  strictly  in  accordance  with  the  evidence," 
he  said,  "but  even  the  damned  may  salute  the  eloquence  of  Mr. 

With  that,  the  long  crow  of  a  rooster  split  the  gray  morning 
sky,  and  judge  and  jury  were  gone  from  the  room  like  a  puff 
of  smoke  and  as  if  they  had  never  been  there.  The  stranger 
turned  to  Dan'l  Webster,  smiling  wryly. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Major  Butler  was  always  a  bold  man,"  he  said.  "I  had  not 
thought  him  quite  so  bold.  Nevertheless,  my  congratulations,  as 
between  two  gentlemen." 

"I'll  have  that  paper  first,  if  you  please,"  said  Dan'l  Webster, 
and  he  took  it  and  tore  it  into  four  pieces.  It  was  queerly  warm 
to  the  touch.  "And  now,"  he  said,  "I'll  have  you!"  and  his  hand 
came  down  like  a  bear  trap  on  the  stranger's  arm.  For  he  knew 
that  once  you  bested  anybody  like  Mr.  Scratch  in  fair  fight,  his 
power  on  you  was  gone.  And  he  could  see  that  Mr.  Scratch  knew 
it  too. 

The  stranger  twisted  and  wriggled,  but  he  couldn't  get  out  of 
that  grip.  "Come,  come,  Mr.  Webster,"  he  said,  smiling  palely. 
"This  sort  of  thing  is  ridic— ouch!  —  is  ridiculous.  If  you're  wor- 
ried about  the  costs  of  the  case,  naturally,  I'd  be  glad  to  pay — " 

"And  so  you  shall!"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  shaking  him  till  his 
teeth  rattled.  "For  you'll  sit  right  down  at  that  table  and  draw  up 
a  document,  promising  never  to  bother  Jabez  Stone  nor  his  heirs 
or  assigns  nor  any  other  New  Hampshireman  till  doomsday!  For 
any  hades  we  want  to  raise  in  this  state,  we  can  raise  ourselves, 
without  assistance  from  strangers." 

"Ouch!"  said  the  stranger.  "Ouch!  Well,  they  never  did  run 
very  big  to  the  barrel,  but— ouch!— I  agree!" 

So  he  sat  down  and  drew  up  the  document.  But  Dan'l  Web- 
itei  kept  his  hand  on  his  coat  collar  all  the  time. 
,    "And,  now,  may  I  go?"  said  the  stranger,  quite  humble,  when 
DanTd  seen  the  document  was  in  proper  and  legal  form. 

"Go?"  said  Dan'l,  giving  him  another  shake.  "I'm  still  trying 
to  figure  out  what  I'll  do  with  you.  For  you've  settled  the  costs 
of  the  case,  but  you  haven't  settled  with  me.  I  think  I'll  take  you 
back  to  Marshfield,"  he  said,  kind  of  reflective.  "I've  got  a  ram 
there  named  Goliath  that  can  butt  through  an  iron  door.  I'd 
kind  of  like  to  turn  you  loose  in  his  field  and  see  what  he'd  do." 

Well,  with  that  the  stranger  began  to  beg  and  to  plead.  And 
he  begged  and  he  pled  so  humble  that  finally  Dan'l,  who  was 
naturally  kindhearted,  agreed  to  let  him  go.  The  stranger  seemed 
terrible  grateful  for  that  and  said,  just  to  show  they  were  friends, 
he'd  tell  DanTs  fortune  before  leaving.  So  Dan'l  agreed  to  that, 
though  he  didn't  take  much  stock  in  fortune-tellers  ordinarily. 
But,  naturally,  the  stranger  was  a  little  different. 


The  Devil  and  Daniel  Webster 

Well,  he  pried  and  he  peered  at  the  lines  in  DanTs  hands.  And 
he  told  him  one  tiling  and  another  that  was  quite  remarkable. 
But  they  were  all  in  the  past. 

"Yes,  all  that's  true,  and  it  happened,"  said  Dan'l  Webster. 
"But  what's  to  come  in  the  future?" 

The  stranger  grinned,  kind  of  happily,  and  shook  his  head. 

"The  future's  not  as  you  think  it,"  he  said.  "It's  dark.  You 
have  a  great  ambition,  Mr.  Webster." 

"I  have,"  said  Dan'l  firmly,  for  everybody  knew  he  wanted  to 
be  President. 

"It  seems  almost  within  your  grasp,"  said  the  stranger,  "but 
you  will  not  attain  it.  Lesser  men  will  be  made  President  and 
you  will  be  passed  over." 

"And,  if  I  am,  I'll  still  be  Daniel  Webster,"  said  Dan'l.  uSay 

"You  have  two  strong  sons,"  said  the  stranger,  shaking  his 
head.  "You  look  to  found  a  line.  But  each  will  die  in  war  and 
neither  reach  greatness." 

"Live  or  die,  they  are  still  my  sons,"  <*aid  Dan'l  Webster. 
"Say  on." 

"You  have  made  great  speeches,"  said  the  stranger.  "You  will 
make  more." 

"Ah,"  said  Dan'l  Webster. 

"But  the  last  great  speech  you  make  will  turn  many  of  your 
own  against  you,"  said  the  stranger.  "They  will  call  you  Ichabod; 
they  will  call  you  by  other  names.  Even  in  New  England,  some 
will  say  you  have  turned  your  coat  and  sold  your  country,  and 
their  voices  will  be  loud  against  you  till  you  die." 

"So  it  is  an  honest  speech,  it  does  not  matter  what  men  say,' 
said  Dan'l  Webster.  Then  he  looked  at  the  stranger  and  their 
glances  locked. 

"One  question,"  he  said.  "I  have  fought  for  the  Union  ail  my 
life.  Will  I  see  that  fight  won  against  those  who  would  tear  it 

"Not  while  you  live,"  said  the  stranger,  grimly,  "but  it  wii) 
be  won.  And  after  you  are  dead,  there  are  thousands  who  will 
fight  for  your  cause,  because  of  words  that  you  spoke." 

"Why,  then,  you  long-barreled,  slab-sided,  lantern- jawed,  for- 
tune-telling note  shaver!"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  with  a  great  roar 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

of  laughter,  "be  off  with  you  to  your  own  place  before  I  put 
my  mark  on  you!  For,  by  the  thirteen  original  colonies,  I'd  go 
to  the  Pit  itself  to  save  the  Union! " 

And  with  that  he  drew  back  his  foot  for  a  kick  that  would 
have  stunned  a  horse.  It  was  only  the  tip  of  his  shoe  that  caught 
the  stranger,  but  he  went  flying  out  of  the  door  with  his  collect- 
ing box  under  his  arm. 

"And  now,"  said  Dan'l  Webster,  seeing  Jabez  Stone  beginning 
to  rouse  from  his  swoon,  "let's  see  what's  left  in  the  jug,  for  it's 
dry  work  talking  all  night.  I  hope  there's  pie  for  breakfast,  Neigh- 
bor Stone." 

But  they  say  that  whenever  the  devil  comes  near  Marshfield, 
even  now,  he  gives  it  a  wide  berth.  And  he  hasn't  been  seen  in 
the  state  of  New  Hampshire  from  that  day  to  this.  I'm  not  talk- 
ing about  Massachusetts  or  Vermont. 


A  long  time  ago,  in  times  gone  by,  in  slavery  times,  there  was 
a  man  named  Cue.  I  want  you  to  think  about  him.  I've  got  a 

He  got  born  like  the  cotton  in  the  boll  or  the  rabbit  in  the  pea 
patch.  There  wasn't  any  fine  doings  when  he  got  born,  but  his 
mammy  was  glad  to  have  him.  Yes.  He  didn't  get  born  in  the 
Big  House,  or  the  overseer's  house,  or  any  place  where  the  bear- 
ing was  easy  or  the  work  light.  No,  Lord.  He  came  out  of  his 
mammy  in  a  field  hand's  cabin  one  sharp  winter,  and  about  the 
first  thing  he  remembered  was  his  mammy's  face  and  the  taste 
of  a  piece  of  bacon  rind  and  the  light  and  shine  of  the  pitch-pine 
fire  up  the  chimney.  Well,  now,  he  got  born  and  there  he  was. 

His  daddy  worked  in  the  fields  and  his  mammy  worked  in 
the  fields  when  she  wasn't  bearing.  They  were  slaves;  they 
chopped  the  cotton  and  hoed  the  corn.  They  heard  the  horn 
blow  before  the  light  came  and  the  horn  blow  that  meant  the 
day's  work  was  done.  His  daddy  was  a  strong  man— strong  in 
his  back  and  his  arms.  The  white  folks  called  him  Cuffee.  His 
mammy  was  a  good  woman,  yes,  Lord.  The  white  folks  called 
her  Sarah,  and  she  was  gentle  with  her  hands  and  gentle  with 

Freedom's  a  Hard-Bought  Thing 

her  voice.  She  had  a  voice  like  the  river  going  by  in  the  night, 
and  at  night  when  she  wasn't  too  tired  she'd  sing  songs  to  little 
Cue.  Some  had  foreign  words  in  them—African  words.  She 
couldn't  remember  what  some  of  them  meant,  but  they'd  come 
to  her  down  out  of  time. 

Now,  how  am  I  going  to  describe  and  explain  about  that  time 
when  that  time's  gone?  The  white  folks  lived  in  the  Big  House 
and  they  had  many  to  tend  on  them.  Old  Marster,  he  lived  there 
like  Pharaoh  and  Solomon,  mighty  splendid  and  fine.  He  had 
his  flocks  and  his  herds,  his  butler  and  his  baker;  his  fields 
ran  from  the  river  to  the  woods  and  back  again.  He'd  ride  around 
the  fields  each  day  on  his  big  horse,  Black  Billy,  just  like  thun- 
der and  lightning,  and  evenings  he'd  sit  at  his  table  and  drink 
his  wine.  Man,  that  was  a  sight  to  see,  with  all  the  silver  knives 
and  the  silver  forks,  the  glass  decanters,  and  the  gentlemen  and 
ladies  from  all  over.  It  was  a  sight  to  see.  When  Cue  was  young, 
it  seemed  to  him  that  Old  Marster  must  own  the  whole  world, 
right  up  to  the  edge  of  the  sky.  You  can't  blame  him  for  think- 
ing that. 

There  were  things  that  changed  on  the  plantation,  but  it  didn't 
change.  There  were  bad  times  and  good  times.  There  was  the 
time  young  Marse  Edward  got  bit  by  the  snake,  and  the  time 
Big  Rambo  ran  away  and  they  caugnt  him  with  the  dogs  and 
brought  him  back.  There  was  a  swivel-eyed  overseer  that  beat 
folks  too  much,  and  then  there  was  Mr.  Wade,  and  he  wasn't 
so  bad.  There  was  hog-killing  time  and  Christmas  and  springtime 
and  summertime.  Cue  didn't  wonder  about  it  or  why  things  hap- 
pened that  way;  he  didn't  expect  it  to  be  different.  A  bee  in  a 
hive  don't  ask  you  how  there  come  to  be  a  hive  in  the,  beginning. 
Cue  grew  up  strong;  he  grew  up  smart  with  his  hands.  They 
put  him  in  the  blacksmith  shop  to  help  Daddy  Jake;  he  didn't 
like  it,  at  first,  because  Daddy  Jake  was  mighty  cross-tempered. 
Then  he  got  to  like  the  work;  he  learned  to  forge  iron  and  shape 
it;  he  learned  to  shoe  a  horse  and  tire  a  wagon  wheel,  and 
everything  a  blacksmith  does.  One  time  they  let  him  shoe  Black 
Billy,  and  he  shod  him  light  and  tight  and  Old  Marster  praised 
him  in  front  of  Mr.  Wade.  He  was  strong;  he  was  black  as  night; 
he  was  proud  of  his  back  and  his  arms. 

Now,  he  might  have  stayed  that  way— yes,  he  might.  He  heard 
freedom  talk,  now  and  then,  but  he  didn't  pay  much  mind  to  it. 


Stephen  Vincent  Bentt 

He  wasn't  a  talker  or  a  preacher;  he  was  Cue  and  he  worked  in 
the  blacksmith  shop.  He  didn't  want  to  be  a  field  hand,  but  he 
didn't  want  to  be  a  house  servant  either.  He'd  rather  be  Cue 
than  poor  white  trash  or  owned  by  poor  white  trash.  That's  the 
way  he  felt;  I'm  obliged  to  tell  the  truth  about  that  way. 

Then  there  was  a  sickness  came  and  his  mammy  and  his  daddy 
died  of  it.  Old  Miss  got  the  doctor  for  them,  but  they  died 
just  the  same.  After  that,  Cue  felt  lonesome. 

He  felt  lonesome  and  troubled  in  his  mind.  He'd  seen  his  daddy 
and  his  mammy  put  in  the  ground  and  new  slaves  come  to  take 
their  cabin.  He  didn't  repine  about  that,  because  he  knew  things 
had  to  be  that  way.  But  when  he  went  to  bed  at  night,  in  the 
loft  over  the  blacksmith  shop,  he'd  keep  thinking  about  his 
mammy  and  his  daddy— how  strong  his  daddy  was  and  the  songs 
that  his  mammy  sang.  They'd  worked  all  their  lives  and  had 
children,  though  he  was  the  only  one  left,  but  the  only  place 
of  their  own  they  had  was  the  place  in  the  burying  ground.  And 
yet  they'd  been  good  and  faithful  servants,  because  Old  Marster 
said  so,  with  his  hat  off,  when  he  buried  them.  The  Big  House 
stayed,  and  the  cotton  and  the  corn,  but  Cue's  mammy  and  daddy 
were  gone  like  last  year's  crop.  It  made  Cue  wonder  and  trouble. 

He  began  to  take  notice  of  things  he'd  never  noticed.  When 
the  horn  blew  in  the  morning  for  the  hands  to  go  to  the  fields, 
he'd  wonder  who  started  blowing  that  horn,  in  the  first  place. 
It  wasn't  like  thunder  and  lightning;  somebody  had  started  it. 
When  he  heard  Old  Marster  say,  when  he  was  talking  to  a 
friend,  "This  damned  epidemic!  It's  cost  me  eight  prime  field 
hands  and  the  best-trained  butler  in  the  state.  I'd  rather  have  lost 
the  Flyaway  colt  than  Old  Isaac,"  Cue  put  that  down  in  his  mind 
and  pondered  it.  Old  Marster  didn't  mean  it  mean,  and  he'd  sat 
up  with  Old  Isaac  all  night  before  he  died.  But  Isaac  and  Cue 
and  the  Flyaway  colt,  they  all  belonged  to  Old  Marster  and  he 
owned  them,  hide  and  hair.  He  owned  them,  like  money  in  his 
pockets.  Well,  Cue  had  known  that  all  his  life,  but  because  he 
was  troubled  now,  it  gave  him  a  queer  feeling. 

Well,  now,  he  was  shoeing  a  horse  for  young  Marster  Shepley 
one  day,  and  he  shod  it  fight  and  tight.  And  when  he  was 
through,  he  made  a  stirrup  for  young  Marster  Shepley,  and 
young  Marster  Shepley  mounted  and  threw  him  a  silver  bit,  with 
a  laughing  word.  That  shouldn't  have  bothered  Cue,  because 

Freedom's  a  Hard-Bought  Thing 

gentlemen  sometimes  did  that.  And  Old  Marster  wasn't  mean; 
he  didn't  object.  But  all  night  Cue  kept  feeling  the  print  of  young 
Marster  Shepley's  heel  in  his  hands.  And  yet  he  liked  young 
Marster  Shepley.  He  couldn't  explain  it  at  all. 

Finally,  Cue  decided  he  must  be  conjured.  He  didn't  know 
who  had  done  it  or  why  they'd  done  it.  But  he  knew  what  he 
had  to  do.  He  had  to  go  see  Aunt  Rachel. 

Aunt  Rachel  was  an  old,  old  woman,  and  she  lived  in  a  cabin 
by  herself,  with  her  granddaughter,  Sukey.  She'd  seen  Old  Mar- 
ster's  father  and  his  father,  and  the  tale  went  she'd  seen  George 
Washington  with  his  hair  all  white,  and  General  Lafayette  in 
his  gold-plated  suit  of  clothes  that  the  King  of  France  gave  him 
to  fight  in.  Some  folks  said  she  was  a  conjure  and  some  folks  said 
she  wasn't,  but  everybody  on  the  plantation  treated  her  mighty 
respectful,  because,  if  she  put  her  eye  on  you,  she  mightn't  take 
it  off.  Well,  his  mammy  had  been  friends  with  Aunt  Rachel,  so 
Cue  went  to  see  her. 

She  was  sitting  alone  in  her  cabin  by  the  low  light  of  a  fire. 
There  was  a  pot  on  the  fire,  and  now  and  then  you  could  hear 
it  bubble  and  chunk,  like  a  bullfrog  chunking  in  the  swamp, 
but  that  was  the  only  sound*  Cue  made  his  obleegances  to  her 
and  asked  her  about  the  misery  in  her  back.  Then  he  gave  her  a 
chicken  he  happened  to  bring  along.  It  was  a  black  rooster,  and 
she  seemed  pleased  to  get  it.  She  took  it  in  her  thin  black  hands 
and  it  fluttered  and  clucked  a  minute.  So  she  drew  a  chalk  line 
from  its  beak  along  a  board,  and  then  it  stayed  still  and  frozen. 
Well,  Cue  had  seen  that  trick  done  before.  But  it  was  different, 
seeing  it  done  in  Aunt  Rachel's  cabin,  with  the  big  pot  chunking 
on  the  fire.  It  made  him  feel  uneasy  and  he  jingled  the  bit  in  his 
pocket  for  company. 

After  a  while,  the  old  woman  spoke.  "Well,  Son  Cue,"  said  she, 
"that's  a  fine  young  rooster  you've  brought  me.  What  else  did 
you  bring  me,  Son  Cue?" 

"I  brought  you  trouble,"  said  Cue,  in  a  husky  voice,  because 
that  was  all  he  could  think  of  to  say. 

She  nodded  her  head  as  if  she'd  expected  that.  "They  mostly 
brings  me  trouble,"  she  said.  "They  mostly  brings  trouble  to 
Aunt  Rachel.  What  kind  of  trouble,  Son  Cue?  Man  trouble  or 
woman  trouble?" 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"It's  my  trouble,"  said  Cue,  and  he  told  her  the  best  way  he 
could.  When  he'd  finished,  the  pot  on  the  fire  gave  a  bubble  and 
a  croak,  and  the  old  woman  took  a  long  spoon  and  stirred  it. 

"Well,  Son  Cue,  son  of  Cuffee,  son  of  Shango,"  she  said, 
"you've  got  a  big  trouble,  for  sure." 
'  "Is  it  going  to  kill  me  dead?"  said  Cue. 

"I  can't  tell  you  right  about  that,"  said  Aunt  Rachel.  "I  could 
give  you  lies  and  prescriptions.  Maybe  I  would,  to  some  folks.  But 
your  Granddaddy  Shango  was  a  powerful  man.  It  took  three  men 
to  put  the  irons  on  him,  and  I  saw  the  irons  break  his  heart.  I 
won't  lie  to  you,  Son  Cue.  You've  got  a  sickness." 

"Is  it  a  bad  sickness?"  said  Cue. 

"It's  a  sickness  in  your  blood,"  said  Aunt  Rachel.  "It's  a  sick- 
ness in  your  liver  and  your  veins.  Your  daddy  never  had  it  that 
I  knows  of— he  took  after  his  mammy's  side.  But  his  daddy  was 
a  Corromantee,  and  they  is  bold  and  free,  and  you  takes  after 
him.  It's  the  freedom  sickness,  Son  Cue." 

"The  freedom  sickness?"  said  Cue. 

"The  freedom  sickness,"  said  the  old  woman,  and  her  little  eyes 
glittered  like  sparks.  "Some  they  break  and  some  they  tame 
down,"  she  said,  "and  some  is  neither  to  be  tamed  or  broken. 
Don't  I  know  the  signs  and  the  sorrow— me,  that  come  through 
the  middle  passage  on  the  slavery  ship  and  seen  my  folks  scat- 
tered like  sand?  Ain't  I  seen  it  coming,  Lord— O  Lord,  ain't  I  seen 
it  coming?" 

"What's  coming?"  said  Cue. 

"A  darkness  in  the  sky  and  a  cloud  with  a  sword  in  it,"  said 
the  old  woman,  stirring  the  pot,  "because  they  hold  our  people 
and  they  hold  our  people." 

Cue  began  to  tremble.  "I  don't  want  to  get  whipped,"  he  said. 
"I  never  been  whipped— not  hard." 

"They  whipped  your  Granddaddy  Shango  till  the  blood  ran 
twinkling  down  his  back,"  said  the  old  woman,  "but  some  you 
can't  break  or  tame." 

"I  don't  want  to  be  chased  by  dogs,"  said  Cue.  "I  don't  want 
to  hear  the  dogs  belling  and  the  paterollers  after  me." 

The  old  woman  stirred  the  pot. 

"Old  Marster,  he's  a  good  marster,"  said  Cue.  "I  don't  want  to 
do  him  no  harm.  I  don't  want  no  trouble  or  projecting  to  get  me 
into  trouble." 


Freedom's  a  Hard-Bought  Thing 

The  old  woman  stirred  the  pot  and  stirred  the  pot. 

"O  God,  I  want  to  be  free,"  said  Cue.  "I  just  ache  and  hone  to 
be  free.  How  I  going  to  be  free,  Aunt  Rachel?" 

"There's  a  road  that  runs  underground,"  said  the  old  woman. 
"I  never  seen  it,  but  I  knows  of  it.  There's  a  railroad  train  that 
runs,  sparking  and  snorting,  underground  through  the  earth.  At 
least  that's  what  they  tell  me.  But  I  wouldn't  know  for  sure,"  and 
she  looked  at  Cue. 

Cue  looked  back  at  her  bold  enough,  for  he'd  heard  about  the 
Underground  Railroad  himself— just  mentions  and  whispers.  But 
he  knew  there  wasn't  any  use  asking  the  old  woman  what  she 
wouldn't  tell. 

"How  I  going  to  find  that  road,  Aunt  Rachel?"  he  said. 

"You  look  at  the  rabbit  in  the  brier  and  you  see  what  he  do," 
said  the  old  woman.  "You  look  at  the  owl  in  the  woods  and  you 
see  what  he  do.  You  look  at  the  star  in  the  sky  and  you  see  what 
she  do.  Then  you  come  back  and  talk  to  me.  Now  I'm  going  to 
eat,  because  I'm  hungry." 

That  was  all  the  words  she'd  say  to  him  that  night;  but  when 
Cue  went  back  to  his  loft,  her  words  kept  boiling  around  in  his 
mind.  All  night  he  could  hear  that  train  of  railroad  cars,  snorting 
and  sparking  underground  through  the  earth.  So,  next  morning, 
he  ran  away. 

He  didn't  run  far  or  fast.  How  could  he?  He'd  never  been 
more  than  twenty  miles  from  the  plantation  in  his  life;  he  didn't 
know  the  roads  or  the  ways.  He  ran  off  before  the  horn,  and  Mr. 
Wade  caught  him  before  sundown.  Now,  wasn't  he  a  stupid  man, 
that  Cue? 

When  they  brought  him  back,  Mr.  Wade  let  him  off  light, 
because  he  was  a  good  boy  and  never  run  away  before.  All  the 
same,  he  got  ten,  and  ten  laid  over  the  ten.  Yellow  Joe,  the  head 
driver,  laid  them  on.  The  first  time  the  whip  cut  into  him,  it  was 
just  like  a  fire  on  Cue's  skin,  and  he  didn't  see  how  he  could  stand 
it.  Then  he  got  to  a  place  where  he  could. 

After  it  was  over,  Aunt  Rachel  crope  up  to  his  loft  and  had 
her  granddaughter,  Sukey,  put  salve  on  his  back.  Sukey,  she  was 
sixteen,  and  golden-skinned  and  pretty  as  a  peach  on  a  peach  tree. 
>She  worked  in  the  Big  House  and  he  never  expected  her  to  do 
a  thing  like  that. 

"I'm  mighty  obliged,"  he  said,  though  he  kept  thinking  it  was 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Aunt  Rachel  got  him  into  trouble  and  he  didn't  feel  as  obliged  as 
he  might. 

"Is  that  all  you've  got  to  say  to  me,  Son  Cue?"  said  Aunt 
Rachel,  looking  down  at  him.  "I  told  you  to  watch  three  things. 
Did  you  watch  them?" 

"No'm,"  said  Cue.  "I  run  off  in  the  woods  just  like  I  was  a 
wild  turkey.  I  won't  never  do  that  no  more." 

"You're  right,  Son  Cue,"  said  the  old  woman.  "Freedom's  a 
hard-bought  thing.  So,  now  you've  been  whipped,  I  reckon  you'll 
give  it  up." 

"I  been  whipped,"  said  Cue,  "but  there's  a  road  running  under- 
ground. You  told  me  so.  I  been  whipped,  but  I  ain't  beaten." 

"Now  you're  learning  a  thing  to  remember,"  said  Aunt  Rachel, 
and  went  away.  But  Sukey  stayed  behind  for  a  while  and  cooked 
Cue's  supper.  He  never  expected  her  to  do  a  thing  like  that,  but 
he  liked  it  when  she  did. 

When  his  back  got  healed,  they  put  him  with  the  field  gang  for 
a  while.  But  then  there  was  blacksmith  work  that  needed  to  be 
done  and  they  put  him  back  in  the  blacksmith  shop.  And  things 
went  on  for  a  long  time  just  the  way  they  had  before.  But  there 
was  a  difference  in  Cue.  It  was  like  he'd  lived  up  till  now  with 
his  ears  and  his  eyes  sealed  over.  And  now  he  began  to  open  his 
eyes  and  his  ears. 

He  looked  at  the  rabbit  in  the  brier  and  he  saw  it  could  hide. 
He  looked  at  the  owl  in  the  woods  and  he  saw  it  went  soft 
through  the  night.  He  looked  at  the  star  in  the  sky  and  he  saw  she 
pointed  north.  Then  he  began  to  figure. 

He  couldn't  figure  things  fast,  so  he  had  to  figure  things  slow. 
He  figure  the  owl  and  the  rabbit  got  wisdom  the  white  folks 
don't  know  about.  But  he  figure  the  white  folks  got  wisdom  he 
don't  know  about.  They  got  reading  and  writing  wisdom,  and  it 
seem  mighty  powerful.  He  ask  Aunt  Rachel  if  that's  so,  and  she 
say  it's  so. 

That's  how  come  he  learned  to  read  and  write.  He  ain't  sup- 
posed to.  But  Sukey,  she  learned  some  of  that  wisdom,  along  with 
the  young  misses,  and  she  teach  him  out  of  a  little  book  she  tote 
from  the  Big  House.  The  little  book,  it's  all  about  bats  and  rats 
and  cats,  and  Cue  figure  whoever  wrote  it  must  be  sort  of  touched 
in  the  head  not  to  write  about  things  folks  would  want  to  know, 
instead  of  all  those  trifling  animals.  But  he  put  himself  to  it  and  he 

Freedom^  a  Hard-Bought  Thing 

learn.  It  almost  bust  his  head,  but  he  learn.  It's  a  proud  day  for 
him  when  he  write  his  name,  "Cue,"  in  the  dust  with  the  end  of 
a  stick  and  Sukey  tell  him  that's  right. 

Now  he  began  to  hear  the  first  rumblings  of  that  train  running 
underground— that  train  that's  the  Underground  Railroad.  Oh, 
children,  remember  the  names  of  Levi  Coffin  and  John  Hansen! 
Remember  the  Quaker  saints  that  hid  the  fugitive!  Remember  the 
names  of  all  those  that  helped  set  our  people  free! 

There's  a  word  dropped  here  and  a  word  dropped  there  and  a 
word  that's  passed  around.  Nobody  know  where  the  word  come 
from  or  where  it  goes,  but  it's  there.  There's  many  a  word  spoken 
in  the  quarters  that  the  Big  House  never  hears  about.  There's  a 
heap  said  in  front  of  the  fire  that  never  flies  up  the  chimney. 
There's  a  name  you  tell  to  the  grapevine  that  the  grapevine  don't 
tell  back. 

There  was  a  white  man,  one  day,  came  by,  selling  maps  and 
pictures.  The  quality  folks,  they  looked  at  his  maps  and  pictures 
and  he  talked  with  them  mighty  pleasant  and  respectful.  But 
while  Cue  was  tightening  a  bolt  on  his  wagon,  he  dropped  a  word 
and  a  word.  The  word  he  said  made  that  underground  train  come 

Cue  meet  that  man  one  night,  all  alone,  in  the  woods.  He's  a 
quiet  man  with  a  thin  face.  He  hold  his  life  in  his  hands  every 
day  he  walk  about,  but  he  don't  make  nothing  of  that.  Cue's 
seen  bold  folks  and  bodacious  folks,  but  it's  the  first  time  he's 
seen  a  man  bold  that  way.  It  makes  him  proud  to  be  a  man.  The 
man  ask  Cue  questions  and  Cue  give  him  answers.  While  he's 
seeing  that  man,  Cue  don't  just  think  about  himself  any  more.  He 
think  about  all  his  people  that's  in  trouble. 

The  man  say  something  to  him;  he  say,  "No  man  own  the 
earth.  It's  too  big  for  one  man."  He  say,  "No  man  own  another 
man;  that's  too  big  a  thing  too."  Cue  think  about  those  words  and 
ponder  them.  But  when  he  gets  back  to  his  loft,  the  courage 
drains  out  of  him  and  he  sits  on  his  straw  tick,  staring  at  the  wall. 
That's  the  time  the  darkness  comes  to  him  and  the  shadow  falls 
on  him. 

He  aches  and  he  hones  for  freedom,  but  he  aches  and  he  hones 
for  Sukey  too.  And  Long  Ti's  cabin  is  empty,  and  it's  a  good 
cabin.  All  he's  got  to  do  is  to  go  to  Old  Marster  and  take  Sukey 
with  him.  Old  Marster  don't  approve  to  mix  the  field  hand  with 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

the  house  servant,  but  Cue's  different;  Cue's  a  blacksmith.  He  can 
see  the  way  Sukey  would  look,  coming  back  to  her  in  the  evening. 
He  can  see  the  way  she'd  be  in  the  morning  before  the  horn.  He 
can  see  all  that.  It  ain't  freedom,  but  it's  what  he's  used  to.  And 
the  other  way's  long  and  hard  and  lonesome  and  strange. 

"O  Lord,  why  you  put  this  burden  on  a  man  like  me?"  say 
Cue.  Then  he  listen  a  long  time  for  the  Lord  to  tell  him,  and  it 
seem  to  him,  at  last,  that  he  get  an  answer.  The  answer  ain't  in 
any  words,  but  it's  a  feeling  in  his  heart. 

So  when  the  time  come  and  the  plan  ripe  and  they  get  to  the 
boat  on  the  river  and  they  see  there's  one  too  many  for  the  boat, 
Cue  know  the  answer.  He  don't  have  to  hear  the  quiet  white  man 
say,  "There's  one  too  many  for  the  boat."  He  just  pitch  Sukey 
into  it  before  he  can  think  too  hard.  He  don't  say  a  word  or  a 
groan.  He  know  it's  that  way  and  there's  bound  to  be  a  reason 
for  it.  He  stand  on  the  bank  in  the  dark  and  see  the  boat  pull 
away,  like  Israel's  children.  Then  he  hear  the  shouts  and  the  shot. 
He  know  what  he's  bound  to  do  then,  and  the  reason  for  it. 
He  know  it's  the  paterollers,  and  he  show  himself.  When  he  get 
back  to  the  plantation,  he's  worn  and  tired.  But  the  paterollers, 
they've  chased  him,  instead  of  the  boat. 

He  creep  by  Aunt  Rachel's  cabin  and  he  see  the  fire  at  her 
window.  So  he  scratch  at  the  door  and  go  in.  And  there  she  is. 
sitting  by  the  fire,  all  hunched  up  and  little. 

"You  looks  poorly,  Son  Cue,"  she  say,  when  he  come  in, 
though  she  don't  take  her  eye  off  the  pot. 

"I'm  poorly,  Aunt  Rachel,"  he  say.  "I'm  sick  and  sorry  and 

"What's  the  mud  on  your  jeans,  Son  Cue?"  she  say,  and  the 
pot,  it  bubble  and  croak. 

"That's  the  mud  of  the  swamp  where  I  hid  from  the  paterol- 
lers," he  say. 

"What's  tho-hole  in  your  leg,  Son  Cue?"  she  say,  and  the  pot, 
it  croak  and  bubble. 

"That's  the  hole  from  the  shot  they  shot  at  me,"  say  Cue.  "The 
blood  most  nearly  dried,  but  it  make  me  lame.  But  Israel's  chil- 
dren, they's  safe." 

"They's  across  the  river?"  say  the  old  woman. 

"They's  across  the  river,"  say  Cue.  "They  ain't  room  for  no 
more  in  the  boat.  But  Sukey,  she's  across." 


Freedom's  a  Hard-Bought  Thing 

"And  what  will  you  do  now,  Son  Cue?"  say  the  old  woman. 
"For  that  was  your  chance  and  your  time,  and  you  give  it  up  for 
another.  And  tomorrow  morning,  Mr.  Wade,  he'll  see  that  hole 
in  your  leg  and  he'll  ask  questions.  It's  a  heavy  burden  you've 
laid  on  yourself,  Son  Cue." 

"It's  a  heavy  burden,"  say  Cue,  "and  I  wish  I  was  shut  of  it.  I 
never  asked  to  take  no  such  burden.  But  freedom's  a  hard-bought 

The  old  woman  stand  up  sudden,  and  for  once  she  look  straight 
and  tall.  "Now  bless  the  Lord!"  she  say.  "Bless  the  Lord  and 
praise  him!  I  come  with  my  mammy  in  the  slavery  ship— I  come 
through  the  middle  passage.  There  ain't  many  that  remember 
that,  these  days,  or  care  about  it.  There  ain't  many  that  remember 
the  red  flag  that  witched  us  on  board  or  how  we  used  to  be  free. 
Many  thousands  gone,  and  the  thousands  of  many  thousands  that 
lived  and  died  in  slavery.  But  I  remember.  I  remember  them  all. 
Then  they  took  me  into  the  Big  House— me  that  was  a  Mandingo 
and  a  witch  woman— and  the  way  I  live  in  the  Big  House,  that's 
between  me  and  my  Lord.  If  I  clone  wrong,  I  done  paid  for  it— 
I  paid  for  it  with  weeping  and  sorrow.  That's  before  Old  Miss' 
time  and  I  help  raise  up  Old  Miss.  They  sell  my  daughter  to  the 
South  and  my  son  to  the  West,  but  I  raise  up  Old  Miss  and  tend 
on  her.  I  ain't  going  to  repine  of  that.  I  count  the  hairs  on  Old 
Miss'  head  when  she's  young,  and  she  turn  to  me,  weak  and  help- 
less. And  for  that  there'll  be  a  kindness  between  me  and  the  Big 
House— a  kindness  that  folks  will  remember.  But  my  children's 
children  shall  be  free."  . 

"You  do  this  to  me,"  say  Cue,  and  he  look  at  her,  and  he  look 
dangerous.  "You  do  this  to  me,  old  woman,"  he  say,  and  his 
breath  come  harsh  in  his  throat,  and  his  hands  twitch. 

"Yes,"  she  say,  and  look  him  straight  in  the  eyes.  "I  do  to  you 
what  I  never  even  do  for  my  own.  I  do  it  for  your  Granddaddy 
Shango,  that  never  turn  to  me  in  the  light  of  the  fire.  He  turn  to 
that  soft  Eboe  woman,  and  I  have  to  see  it.  He  roar  like  a  lion  in 
the  chains,  and  I  have  to  see  that.  So,  when  you  come,  I  try  you 
and  I  test  you,  to  see  if  you  fit  to  follow  after  him.  And  because 
you  fit  to  follow  after  him,  I  put  freedom  in  your  heart,  Son 

"I  never  going  to  be  free,"  say  Cue,  and  look  at  his  hands.  "I 
done  broke  all  the  rules.  They  bound  to  sell  me  now." 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

"You'll  be  sold  and  sold  again,"  say  the  old  woman.  ''You'll 
know  the  chains  and  the  whip.  I  can't  help  that.  You'll  suffer  for 
your  people  and  with  your  people.  But  while  one  man's  got  free- 
dom in  his  heart,  his  children  bound  to  know  the  tale." 

She  put  the  lid  on  the  pot  and  it  stop  bubbling. 

"Now  I  come  to  the  end  of  my  road,"  she  say,  ubut  the  tale 
don't  stop  there.  The  tale  go  backward  to  Africa  and  it  go  for- 
ward, like  clouds  and  fire.  It  go,  laughing  and  grieving  forever, 
through  the  earth  and  the  air  and  the  waters— my  people's  tale." 

Then  she  drop  her  hands  in  her  lap  and  Cue  creep  out  of  the 
cabin.  He  know  then  he's  bound  to  be  a  witness,  and  it  make  him 
feel  cold  and  hot.  He  know  then  he's  bound  to  be  a  witness  and 
tell  that  tale.  O  Lord,  it's  hard  to  be  a  witness,  and  Cue  know 
that.  But  it  help  him  in  the  days  to  come. 

Now,  when  he  get  sold,  that's  when  Cue  feel  the  iron  in  his 
heart.  Before  that,  and  all  his  life,  he  despise  bad  servants  and 
bad  marsters.  He  live  where  the  marster's  good;  he  don't  take 
much  mind  of  other  places.  He's  a  slave,  but  he's  Cue,  the  black- 
smith, and  Old  Marster  and  Old  Miss,  they  tend  to  him.  Now  he 
know  the  iron  in  his  heart  and  what  it's  like  to  be  a  slave. 

He  know  that  on  the  rice  fields  in  the  hot  sun.  He  know  that, 
working  all  day  for  a  handful  of  corn.  He  know  the  bad  marsters 
and  the  cruel  overseers.  He  know  the  bite  of  the  whip  and  the 
gall  of  the  iron  on  the  ankle.  Yes,  Lord,  he  know  tribulation.  He 
know  his  own  tribulation  and  the  tribulation  of  his  people.  But 
all  the  time,  somehow,  he  keep  freedom  in  his  heart.  Freedom 
mighty  hard  to  root  out  when  it's  in  the  heart. 

He  don't  know  the  day  or  the  year,  and  he  forget,  half  the 
time,  there  ever  was  a  gal  named  Sukey.  All  he  don't  forget  is 
the  noise  of  the  train  in  his  ears,  the  train  snorting  and  sparking 
underground.  He  think  about  it  at  nights  till  he  dream  it  carry 
him  away.  Then  he  wake  up  with  the  horn.  He  feel  ready  to  die 
then,  but  he  don't  die.  He  live  through  the  whip  and  the  chain; 
he  live  through  the  iron  and  the  fire.  And  finally  he  get  away. 

When  he  get  away,  he  ain't  like  the  Cue  he  used  to  be— not 
even  back  at  Old  Marster's  place.  He  hide  in  the  woods  like  a 
rabbit;  he  slip  through  the  night  like  an  owl.  He  go  cold  and 
hungry,  but  the  star  keep  shining  over  him  and  he  keep  his  eyes 
on  the  star.  They  set  the  dogs  after  him  and  he  hear  the  dogs 
belling  and  yipping  through  the  woods. 


Freedom's  a  Hard-Bought  Thing 

He's  scared  when  he  hear  the  dogs,  but  he  ain't  scared  like  he 
used  to  be.  He  ain't  more  scared  than  any  man.  He  kill  the  big 
dog  in  the  clearing—the  big  dog  with  the  big  voice— and  he  do  it 
with  his  naked  hands.  He  cross  water  three  times  after  that  to 
kill  the  scent,  and  he  go  on. 

He  got  nothing  to  help  him— no,  Lord— but  he  got  a  star.  The 
star  shine  in  the  sky  and  the  star  shine— the  star  point  north  with 
its  shining.  You  put  that  star  in  the  sky,  O  Lord;  you  put  it  for 
the  prisoned  and  the  humble.  You  put  it  there— you  ain't  never 
going  to  blink  it  out. 

He  hungry  and  he  eat  green  corn  and  cowpeas.  He  thirsty  and 
he  drink  swamp  water.  One  time  he  lie  two  days  in  the  swamp, 
too  puny  to  get  up  on  his  feet,  and  he  know  they  hunting  around 
him.  He  think  that's  the  end  of  Cue.  But  after  two  days  he  lift 
his  head  and  his  hand.  He  kill  a  snake  with  a  stone,  and  after  he's 
cut  out  the  poison  bag,  he  eat  the  snake  to  strengthen  him,  and 
go  on. 

He  don't  know  what  the  day  is  when  he  come  to  the  wide, 
cold  river.  The  river  yellow  and  foaming,  and  Cue  can't  swim. 
But  he  hide  like  a  crawdad  on  the  bank;  he  make  himself  a  little 
raft  with  two  logs.  He  know  this  time's  the  last  time  and  he's 
obliged  to  drown.  But  he  put  out  on  the  raft  and  it  drift  him  to 
the  freedom  side.  He  mighty  weak  by  then. 

He  mighty  weak,  but  he  careful.  He  know  tales  of  Billy  Shea, 
the  slave  catcher;  he  remember  those  tales.  He  slide  into  the  town 
by  night,  like  a  shadow,  like  a  ghost.  He  beg  broken  victuals  at 
a  door;  the  woman  give  them  to  him,  but  she  look  at  him  suspi- 
cious. He  make  up  a  tale  to  tell  her,  but  he  don't  think  she  believe 
the  tale.  In  the  gutter  he  find  a  newspaper;  he  pick  it  up  and  look 
at  the  notices.  There's  a  notice  about  a  runaway  man  named  Cue. 
He  look  at  it  and  it  make  the  heart  beat  in  his  breast. 

He  patient;  he  mighty  careful.  He  leave  that  town  behind.  He 
got  the  name  of  another  town,  Cincinnati,  and  a  man's  name  in 
that  town.  He  doh't  know  where  it  is;  he  have  to  ask  his  way, 
but  he  do  it  mighty  careful.  One  time  he  ask  a  yellow  man  direc- 
tions; he  don't  like  the  look  on  the  yellow  man's  face.  He  remem- 
ber Aunt  Rachel;  he  tell  the  yellow  man  he  conjure  his  liver 
out  if  the  yellow  man  tell  him  wrong.  Then  the  yellow  man 
scared  and  tell  him  right.  He  don't  hurt  the  yellow  man;  he  4<pn't 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

blame  him  for  not  wanting  trouble.  But  he  make  the  yellow  man 
change  pants  with  him,  because  his  pants  mighty  ragged. 

He  patient;  he  very  careful.  When  he  get  to  the  place  he  been 
told  about,  he  look  all  about  that  place.  It's  a  big  house;  it  don't 
look  right.  He  creep  around  to  the  back— he  creep  and  he  crawl. 
He  look  in  a  window;  he  see  white  folks  eating  their  supper. 
They  just  look  like  any  white  folks.  He  expect  them  to  look  dif- 
ferent. He  feel  mighty  bad.  All  the  same,  he  rap  at  the  window 
the  way  he  been  told.  They  don't  nobody  pay  attention  and  he 
just  about  to  go  away.  Then  the  white  man  get  up  from  the 
table  and  open  the  back  door  a  crack.  Cue  breathe  in  the  dark- 

"God  bless  the  stranger  the  Lord  sends  us,"  say  the  white  man 
in  a  low,  clear  voice,  and  Cue  run  to  him  and  stumble,  and  the 
white  man  catch  him.  He  look  up  and  it's  a  white  man,  but  he 
ain't  like  thunder  and  lightning. 

He  take  Cue  and  wash  his  wounds  and  bind  them  up.  He  feed 
him  and  hide  him  under  the  floor  of  the  house.  He  ask  him  his 
name  and  where  he's  from.  Then  he  send  him  on.  O  Lord,  re- 
member thy  tried  servant,  Asaph  Brown!  Remember  his  name! 

They  send  him  from  there  in  a  wagon,  and  he's  hidden  in  the 
straw  at  the  bottom.  They  send  him  from  the  next  place  in  a 
closed  cart  with  six  others,  and  they  can't  say  a  word  all  night. 
One  time  a  tollkeeper  ask  them  what's  in  the  wagon,  and  the 
driver  say,  "Southern  calico,"  and  the  tollkeeper  laugh.  Cue  al- 
ways recollect  that. 

One  time  they  get  to  big  water— so  big  it  look  like  the  ocean. 
They  cross  that  water  in  a  boat;  they  get  to  the  other  side.  When 
they  get  to  the  other  side,  they  sing  and  pray,  and  white  folks 
look  on,  curious.  But  Cue  don't  even  feel  happy;  he  just  feel  he 
want  to  sleep. 

He  sleep  like  he  never  sleep  before— not  for  days  and  years. 
When  he  wake  up,  he  wonder;  he  hardly  recollect  where  he  is. 
He  lying  in  the  loft  of  a  barn.  Ain't  nobody  around  him.  He  get 
up  and  go  out  in  the  air.  It's  a  fine  sunny  day. 

He  get  up  and  go  out.  He  say  to  himself,  Tm  free,  but  it  don't 
take  hold  yet.  He  say  to  himself,  This  is  Canada  and  Tm  free, 
but  it  don't  take  hold.  Then  he  start  to  walk  down  the  street. 

The  first  white  man  he  meet  on  the  street,  he  scrunch  up  in 


Freedom^  a  Hard-Bought  Thing 

himself  and  start  to  run  across  the  street.  But  the  white  man  don't 
pay  him  any  mind.  Then  he  know. 

He  say  to  himself  in  his  mind,  Vm  free.  My  name's  Cue— John 
H.  Cue.  I  got  a  strong  back  and  strong  arms.  I  got  freedom  in 
my  heart.  I  got  a  first  name  and  a  last  name  and  a  middle  name. 
I  never  had  them  all  before. 

He  say  to  himself,  My  name's  Cue— John  H.  Cue.  I  got  a  name 
and  a  tale  to  tell.  I  got  a  hammer  to  swing.  I  got  a  tale  to  tell  my 
people.  I  got  recollection.  I  call  my  first  son  'John  Freedom  Cue.9 
I  call  my  first  daughter  'Come-Out-of-the-Liotfs-Mouth.' 

Then  he  walk  down  the  street,  and  he  pass  a  blacksmith  shop. 
The  blacksmith,  he's  an  old  man  and  he  lift  the  hammer  heavy. 
Cue  look  in  that  shop  and  smile. 

He  pass  on;  he  go  his  way.  And  soon  enough  he  see  a  girl  like 
a  peach  tree- a  girl  named  Sukey— walking  free  down  the  street. 


They  were  strong  men  built  the  Big  Road,  in  the  early  days 
of  America,  and  it  was  the  Irish  did  it. 

My  grandfather,  Tim  O'Halloran,  was  a  young  man  then,  and 
wild.  He  could  swing  a  pick  all  day  and  dance  all  night,  if  there 
was  a  fiddler  handy;  and  if  there  was  a  girl  to  be  pleased  he 
pleased  her,  for  he  had  the  tongue  and  the  eye.  Likewise,  if  there 
was  a  man  to  be  stretched,  he  could  stretch  him  with  the  one 

I  saw  him  later  on  in  years  when  he  was  thin  and  white- 
headed,  but  in  his  youth  he  was  not  so.  A  thin,  white-headed 
man  would  have  had  little  chance,  and  they  driving  the  Road 
to  the  West.  It  was  two-fisted  men  cleared  the  plains  and  bored 
through  the  mountains.  They  came  in  the  thousands  to  do  it 
from  every  county  in  Ireland;  and  now  the  names  are  not 
known.  But  it's  over  their  graves  you  pass,  when  you  ride  in 
the  Pullmans.  And  Tim  O'Halloran  was  one  of  them,  six  feet 
high  and  solid  as  the  Rock  of  Cashel  when  he  stripped  to  the 
He  needed  to  be  all  of  that,  for  it  was  not  easy  labor.  Twas 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

a  time  of  great  booms  and  expansions  in  the  railroad  line,  and 
they  drove  the  tracks  north  and  south,  east  and  west,  as  if  the 
devil  was  driving  behind.  For  this  they  must  have  the  boys  with 
shovel  and  pick,  and  every  immigrant  ship  from  Ireland  was 
crowded  with  bold  young  men.  They  left  famine  and  England's 
rule  behind  them— and  it  was  the  thought  of  many  they'd  pick 
up  gold  for  the  asking  in  the  free  States  of  America,  though  it's 
little  gold  that  most  of  them  ever  saw.  They  found  themselves 
up  to  their  necks  in  the  water  of  the  canals,  and  burnt  black 
by  the  suns  of  the  prairie— and  that  was  a  great  surprise  to  them. 
They  saw  their  sisters  and  their  mothers  made  servants  that  had 
not  been  servants  in  Ireland,  and  that  was  a  strange  change  too. 
Eh,  the  death  and  the  broken  hopes  it  takes  to  make  a  country! 
But  those  with  the  heart  and  the  tongue  kept  the  tongue  and  the 

Tim  O'Halloran  came  from  Clonmelly,  and  he  was  the  fool 
of  the  family  and  the  one  who  listened  to  tales.  His  brother 
Ignatius  went  for  a  priest  and  his  brother  James  for  a  sailor,  but 
they  knew  he  could  not  do  those  things.  He  was  strong  and 
biddable  and  he  had  the  O'Halloran  tongue;  but  there  came 
a  time  of  famine,  when  the  younger  months  cried  for  bread 
and  there  was  little  room  in  the  nest.  He  was  not  entirely  wish- 
ful to  emigrate,  and  yet,  when  he  thought  of  it,  he  was  wishful. 
'Tis  often  enough  that  way,  with  a  younger  son.  Perhaps  he 
was  the  more  wishful  because  of  Kitty  Malone. 

'Tis  a  quiet  place,  Clonmelly,  and  she'd  been  the  light  of  it 
to  him.  But  now  the  Malones  had  gone  to  the  States  of  America 
—and  it  was  well  known  that  Kitty  had  a  position  there  the  like 
of  which  was  not  to  be  found  in  all  Dublin  Castle.  They  called 
her  a  hired  girl,  to  be  sure,  but  did  not  she  eatvfrom  gold  plates, 
like  all  the  citizens  of  America?  And  when  she  stirred  her  tea, 
was  not  the  spoon  made  of  gold?  Tim  O'Halloran  thought  of 
this,  and  of  the  chances  and  adventures  that  a  bold  young  man 
might  find,  and  at  last  he  went  to  the  boat.  There  were  many 
from  Clonmelly  on  that  boat,  but  he  kept  himself  to  himself 
and  dreamed  his  own  dreams. 

The  more  disillusion  it  was  to  him,  when  the  boat  landed  him 
in  Boston  and  he  found  Kitty  Malone  there,  scrubbing  the  stairs 
of  an  American  house  with  a  pail  and  brush  by  her  side.  But 
that  did  not  matter,  after  the  first,  for  her  cheeks  still  had  the 


O'Hallorari's  Luck 

rose  in  them  and  she  looked  at  him  in  the  same  way.  'Tis  true 
there  was  an  Orangeman  courting  her—conductor  he  was  on  the 
horsecars,  and  Tim  did  not  like  that.  But  after  Tim  had  seen 
her,  he  felt  himself  the  equal  of  giants;  and  when  the  call  came 
for  strong  men  to  work  in  the  wilds  of  the  West,  he  was  one 
of  the  first  to  offer.  They  broke  a  sixpence  between  them  before 
he  left— it  was  an  English  sixpence,  but  that  did  not  matter  greatly 
to  them.  And  Tim  O'Halloran  was  going  to  make  his  fortune, 
and  Kitty  Malone  to  wait  for  him,  though  her  family  liked  the 
Orangeman  best. 

Still  and  all,  it  was  cruel  work  in  the  West,  as  such  work  must 
be,  and  Tim  O'Halloran  was  young.  He  liked  the  strength  and 
the  wildness  of  it— he'd  drink  with  the  thirstiest  and  fight  with 
the  wildest— and  that  he  knew  how  to  do.  It  was  all  meat  and 
drink  to  him— the  bare  tracks  pushing  ahead  across  the  bare 
prairie  and  the  fussy  cough  of  the  wood-burning  locomotives 
and  the  cold  blind  eyes  of  a  murdered  man,  looking  up  at  the 
prairie  stars.  And  then  there  was  the  cholera  and  the  malaria— 
and  the  strong  man  you'd  worked  on  the  grade  beside,  all  of  a 
sudden  gripping  his  belly  with  the  fear  of  death  on  his  face 
and  his  shovel  falling  to  the  ground. 

Next  day  he  would  not  be  there  and  they'd  scratch  a  name 
from  the  pay  roll.  Tim  O'Halloran  saw  it  all. 

He  saw  it  all  and  it  changed  his  boyhood  and  hardened  it. 
But,  for  all  that,  there  were  times  when  the  black  fit  came  upon 
him,  as  it  does  to  the  Irish,  and  he  knew  he  was  alone  in  a  strange 
land.  Well,  that's  a  hard  hour  to  get  through,  and  he  was  young. 
There  were  times  when  he'd  have  given  all  the  gold  of  the 
Americas  for  a  smell  of  Clonmelly  air  or  a  glimpse  of  Clonmelly 
sky.  Then  he'd  drink  or  dance  or  fight  or  put  a  black  word  on 
the  foreman,  just  to  take  the  aching  out  of  his  mind.  It  did  not 
help  him  with  his  work  and  it  wasted  his  pay;  but  it  was  stronger 
than  he,  and  not  even  the  thought  of  Kitty  Malone  could  stop 
it.  'Tis  like  that,  sometimes. 

Well,  it  happened  one  night  he  was  coming  back  from  the 
place  where  they  sold  the  potheen,  and  perhaps  he'd  had  a  trifle 
more  of  it  than  was  advisable.  Yet  he  had  not  drunk  it  for  that, 
but  to  keep  the  queer  thoughts  from  his  mind.  And  yet,  the 
more  that  he  drank,  the  queerer  were  the  thoughts  in  his  head. 
For  he  kept  thinking  of  the  Luck  of  the  O'Hallorans  and  the 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

tales  his  grandda  had  told  about  it  in  the  old  country— the  tales 
about  pookas  and  banshees  and  leprechauns  with  long  white 

"And  that's  a  queer  thing  to  be  thinking  and  myself  at  labor 
with  a  shovel  on  the  open  prairies  of  America,"  he  said  to  him- 
self. "Sure,  creatures  like  that  might  live  and  thrive  in  the  old 
country— and  I'd  be  the  last  to  deny  it— but  'tis  obvious  they 
could  not  live  here.  The  first  sight  of  Western  America  would 
scare  them  into  conniptions.  And  as  for  the  Luck  of  the  O'Hal- 
lorans,  'tis  little  good  I've  had  of  it,  and  me  not  even  able  to  rise 
to  foreman  and  marry  Kitty  Malone.  They  called  me  the  fool  of 
the  family  in  Clonmelly,  and  I  misdoubt  but  they  were  right. 
Tim  O'Halloran,  you're  a  worthless  man,  for  all  your  strong 
back  and  arms."  It  was  with  such  black,  bitter  thoughts  as  these 
that  he  went  striding  over  the  prairie.  And  it  was  just  then  that 
he  heard  the  cry  in  the  grass. 

Twas  a  strange  little  piping  cry,  and  only  the  half  of  it  human. 
But  Tim  O'Halloran  ran  to  it,  for  in  truth  he  was  spoiling  for  a 
fight.  "Now  this  will  be  a  beautiful  young  lady,"  he  said  to  him- 
self as  he  ran,  "and  I  will  save  her  from  robbers;  and  her  father, 
the  rich  man,  will  ask  me—but,  wirra,  'tis  not  her  I  wish  to 
marry,  'tis  Kitty  Malone.  Well,  he'll  set  me  up  in  business,  out 
of  friendship  and  gratitude,  and  then  I  will  send  for  Kitty—" 

But  by  then  he  was  out  of  breath,  and  by  the  time  he  had 
reached  the  place  where  the  cry  came  from  he  could  see  that  it 
was  not  so.  It  was  only  a  pair  of  young  wolf  cubs,  and  they 
chasing  something  small  and  helpless  and  playing  with  it  as  a 
cat  plays  with  a  mouse.  Where  the  wolf  cub  is  the  old  wolves  are 
not  far,  but  Tim  O'Halloran  felt  as  bold  as  a  lion.  "Be  off  with 
you!"  he  cried  and  he  threw  a  stick  and  a  stone.  They  ran  away 
into  the  night,  and  he  could  hear  them  howling— a  lonesome 
sound.  But  he  knew  the  camp  was  near,  so  he  paid  small  atten- 
tion to  that  but  looked  for  the  thing  they'd  been  chasing. 

It  scuttled  in  the  grass  but  he  could  not  see  it.  Then  he  stooped 
down  and  picked  something  up,  and  when  he  had  it  in  his  hand 
he  stared  at  it  unbelieving.  For  it  was  a  tiny  shoe,  no  bigger 
than  a  child's.  And  more  than  that,  it  was  not  the  kind  of  shoe 
that  is  made  in  America.  Tim  O'Halloran  stared  and  stared  at  it 
—and  at  the  silver  buckle  upon  it— and  still  he  could  not  believe. 

"If  I'd  found  this  in  the  old  country,"  he  said  to  himself,  half 


O'Halloran's  Luck 

aloud,  "I'd  have  sworn  that  it  was  a  leprechaun's  and  looked  for 
the  pot  of  gold.  But  here,  there's  no  chance  of  that—" 

"I'll  trouble  you  for  the  shoe,"  said  a  small  voice  close  by  his 

Tim  O'Halloran  stared  round  him  wildly.  "By  the  piper  that 
played  before  Moses!"  he  said.  "Am  I  drunk  beyond  compre- 
hension? Or  am  I  mad?  For  I  thought  that  I  heard  a  voice." 

"So  you  did,  silly  man,"  said  the  voice  again,  but  irritated, 
"and  I'll  trouble  you  for  my  shoe,  for  it's  cold  in  the  dewy  grass." 

"Honey,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran,  beginning  to  believe  his  ears, 
"honey  dear,  if  you'll  but  show  yourself—" 

"I'll  do  that  and  gladly,"  said  the  voice;  and  with  that  the 
grasses  parted,  and  a  little  old  man  with  a  long  white  beard 
stepped  out.  He  was  perhaps  the  size  of  a  well-grown  child,  as 
O'Halloran  could  see  clearly  by  the  moonlight  on  the  prairie; 
moreover,  he  was  dressed  in  the  clothes  of  antiquity,  and  he 
carried  cobbler's  tools  in  the  belt  at  his  side. 

"By  faith  and  belief,  but  it  is  a  leprechaun!"  cried  O'Halloran, 
and  with  that  he  made  a  grab  for  the  apparition.  For  you  must 
know,  in  case  you've  been  ill  brought  up,  that  a  leprechaun  is  a 
sort  of  cobbler  fairy  and  each  one  knows  the  whereabouts  of 
a  pot  of  gold.  Or  it's  so  they  say  in  the  old  country.  For  they 
say  you  can  tell  a  leprechaun  by  his  long  white  beard  and  his 
cobbler's  tools;  and  once  you  have  the  possession  of  him,  he  must 
tell  you  where  his  gold  is  hid. 

The  little  old  man  skipped  out  of  reach  as  nimbly  as  a 
cricket.  "Is  this  Clonmelly  courtesy?"  he  said  with  a  shake  in  his 
voice,  and  Tim  O'Halloran  felt  ashamed. 

"Sure,  I  didn't  mean  to  hurt  your  worship  at  all,"  he  said, 
"but  if  you're  what  you  seem  to  be,  well,  then,  there's  the  little 
matter  of  a  pot  of  gold—" 

"Pot  of  gold!"  said  the  leprechaun,  and  his  voice  was  hollow 
and  full  of  scorn.  "And  would  I  be  here  today  if  I  had  that 
same?  Sure,  it  all  went  to  pay  my  sea  passage,  as  you  might  ex- 

"Well,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran,  scratching  his  head,  for  that 
sounded  reasonable  enough,  "that  may  be  so  or  again  it  may  not 
be  so.  But-" 

"Oh,  'tis  bitter  hard,"  said  the  leprechaun,  and  his  voice  was 
weeping,  "to  come  to  the  waste,  wild  prairies  all  alone,  just  for 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

the  love  of  Clonmelly  folk— and  then  to  be  disbelieved  by  the 
first  that  speaks  to  me!  If  it  had  been  an  Ulsterman  now,  I  might 
have  expected  it.  But  the  O'Hallorans  wear  the  green." 

"So  they  do,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran,  "and  it  shall  not  be  said 
of  an  O'Halloran  that  he  denied  succor  to  the  friendless.  I'll  not 
touch  you." 

"Do  you  swear  it?"  said  the  leprechaun. 

"I  swear  it,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran. 

"Then  I'll  just  creep  under  your  coat,"  said  the  leprechaun, 
"for  I'm  near  destroyed  by  the  chills  and  damps  of  the  prairie. 
Oh,  this  weary  emigrating!"  he  said,  with  a  sigh  like  a  furnace. 
"  Tis  not  what  it's  cracked  up  to  be." 

Tim  O'Halloran  took  off  his  own  coat  and  wrapped  it  around 
him.  Then  he  could  see  him  closer—and  it  could  not  be  denied 
that  the  leprechaun  was  a  pathetic  sight.  He'd  a  queer  little  boy- 
ish face,  under  the  long  white  beard,  but  his  clothes  were  all 
torn  and  ragged  and  his  cheeks  looked  hollow  with  hunger. 

"Cheer  up!"  said  Tim  O'Halloran  and  patted  him  on  the  back. 
"It's  a  bad  day  that  beats  the  Irish.  But  tell  me  first  how  you 
came  here— for  that  still  sticks  in  my  throat." 

"And  would  I  be  staying  behind  with  half  Clonmelly  on  the 
water?"  said  the  leprechaun  stoutly.  "By  the  bones  of  Finn, 
what  sort  of  a  man  do  you  think  I  am?" 

"That's  well  said,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran.  "And  yet  I  never 
heard  of  the  Good  People  emigrating  before." 

"True  for  you,"  said  the  leprechaun.  "The  climate  here's  not 
good  for  most  of  us  and  that's  a  fact.  There's  a  boggart  or  so 
that  came  over  with  the  English,  but  then  the  Puritan  ministers 
got  after  them  and  they  had  to  take  to  the  woods.  And  I  had  a 
word  or  two,  on  my  way  West,  with  a  banshee  that  lives  by 
Lake  Superior— a  decent  woman  she  was,  but  you  could  see  she'd 
come  down  in  the  world.  For  even  the  bits  of  children  wouldn't 
believe  in  her;  and  when  she  let  out  a  screech,  sure  they  thought 
it  was  a  steamboat.  I  misdoubt  she's  died  since  then— she  was  not 
in  good  health  when  I  left  her. 

"And  as  for  the  native  spirits— well,  you  can  say  what  you 
like,  but  they're  not  very  comfortable  people.  I  was  captive  to 
some  of  them  a  week  and  they  treated  me  well  enough,  but  they 
whooped  and  danced  too  much  for  a  quiet  man,  and  I  did  not 
like  the  long,  sharp  knives  on  them.  Oh,  I've  had  the  adventures 

O'Halloran"  $  Luck 

on  my  way  here,"  he  said,  "but  they're  over  now,  praises  be,  for 
I've  found  a  protector  at  last,"  and  he  snuggled  closer  under 
O'Halloran's  coat. 

"Well,"  said  O'Halloran,  somewhat  taken  aback,  "I  did  not 
think  this  would  be  the  way  of  it  when  I  found  O'Halloran's 
Luck  that  I'd  dreamed  of  so  long.  For,  first  I  save  your  life  from 
the  wolves;  and  now,  it  seems,  I  must  be  protecting  you  further. 
But  in  the  tales  it's  always  the  other  way  round." 

"And  is  the  company  and  conversation  of  an  ancient  and  ex- 
perienced creature  like  myself  nothing  to  you?"  said  the  lepre- 
chaun fiercely.  "Me  that  had  my  own  castle  at  Clonmelly  and 
saw  O'Sheen  in  his  pride?  Then  St.  Patrick  came— wirra,  wirra!  — 
and  there  was  an  end  to  it  all.  For  some  of  us— the  Old  Folk  of 
Ireland— he  baptized,  and  some  of  us  he  chained  with  the  demons 
of  hell.  But  I  was  Lazy  Brian,  betwixt  and  between,  and  all  I 
wanted  was  peace  and  a  quiet  life.  So  he  changed  me  to  what 
you  see— me  that  had  six  tall  harpers  to  harp  me  awake  in  the 
morning— and  laid  a  doom  upon  me  for  being  betwixt  and  be- 
tween. I'm  to  serve  Clonmelly  folk  and  follow  them  wherever 
they  go  till  I  serve  the  servants  of  servants  in  a  land  at  the  world's 
end.  And  then,  perhaps,  I'll  be  given  a  Christian  soul  and  can  fol- 
low my  own  inclinations." 

"Serve  the  servants  of  servants?"  said  O'Halloran.  "Well,  that's 
a  hard  riddle  to  read." 

"It  is  that,"  said  the  leprechaun,  "for  I  never  once  met  the 
servant  of  a  servant  in  Clonmelly,  all  the  time  I've  been  looking. 
I  doubt  but  that  was  in  St.  Patrick's  mind." 

"If  it's  criticizing  the  good  saint  you  are,  I'll  leave  you  here 
on  the  prairie,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran. 

"I'm  not  criticizing  him,"  said  the  leprechaun  with  a  sigh,  "but 
I  wish  he'd  been  less  hasty.  Or  more  specific.  And  now,  what  do 
we  do?" 

"Well,"  said  O'Halloran,  and  he  sighed,  too,  "  'tis  a  great  re- 
sponsibility, and  one  I  never  thought  to  shoulder.  But  since 
you've  asked  for  help,  you  must  have  it.  Only  there's  just  this 
to  be  said.  There's  little  money  in  my  pocket." 

"Sure,  'tis  not  for  your  money  I've  come  to  you,"  said  the 
leprechaun  joyously.  "And  I'll  stick  closer  than  a  brother." 

"I'VE  no  doubt  of  that,"  said  O'Halloran  with  a  wiy  laugh. 
"Well,  clothes  and  food  I  can  get  for  you— but  if  you  stick  with 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

me,  you  must  work  as  well.  And  perhaps  the  best  way  would 
be  for  you  to  be  my  young  nephew,  Rory,  run  away  from  home 
to  work  on  the  railroad." 

"And  how  would  I  be  your  young  nephew,  Rory,  and  me  with 
a  long  white  beard.V7 

"Well,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran  with  a  grin,  "as  it  happens,  I've 
got  a  razor  in  my  pocket." 

And  with  that  you  should  have  heard  the  leprechaun.  He 
stamped  and  he  swore  and  he  pled— but  it  wis  no  use  at  all.  If 
he  was  to  follow  Tim  O'Halloran,  he  must  do  it  on  Tim  O'Hal- 
Joran's  terms  and  no  two  ways  about  it.  So  O'Halloran  shaved 
him  at  last,  by  the  light  of  the  moon,  to  the  leprechaun's  great 
horror,  and  when  he  got  him  back  to  the  construction  camp 
and  fitted  him  out  in  some  old  duds  of  his  own— well,  it  wasn't 
exactly  a  boy  he  looked,  but  it  was  more  like  a  boy  than  anything 
else.  Tim  took  him  up  to  the  foreman  the  next  day  and  got  him 
signed  on  for  a  water  boy,  and  it  was  a  beautiful  tale  he  told 
the  foreman.  As  well,  too,  that  he  had  the  O'Halloran  tongue 
to  tell  it  with,  for  when  the  foreman  first  looked  at  young  Rory 
you  could  see  him  gulp  like  a  man  that's  seen  a  ghost. 

"And  now  what  do  we  do?"  said  the  leprechaun  to  Tim  when 
the  interview  was  over. 

"Why,  you  work,"  said  Tim  with  a  great  laugh,  "and  Sundays 
you  wash  your  shirt." 

"Thank  you  for  nothing,"  said  the  leprechaun  with  an  angry 
gleam  in  his  eye.  "It  was  not  for  that  I  came  here  from  Clon- 

"Oh,  we've  all  come  here  for  great  fortune,"  said  Tim,  "but 
it's  hard  to  find  that  same.  Would  you  rather  be  with  the 

"Oh,  no,"  said  the  leprechaun. 

"Then  drill,  ye  tarrier,  drill!"  said  Tim  O'Halloran  and  shoul- 
dered his  shovel,  while  the  leprechaun  trailed  behind. 

At  the  end  of  the  day  the  leprechaun  came  to  him. 

"I've  never  done  mortal  work  before,"  he  said,  "and  there's  no 
bone  in  my  body  that's  not  a  pain  and  an  anguish  to  me." 

"You'll  feel  better  after  supper,"  said  O'Halloran.  "And  the 
night's  made  for  sleep." 

"But  where  will  I  sleep?"  said  the  leprechaun. 


O'Halhran's  Luck 

"In  the  half  of  my  blanket,"  said  Tim,  "for  are  you  not  young 
Rory,  my  nephew? 

It  was  not  what  he  could  have  wished,  but  he  saw  he  could 
do  no  otherwise.  Once  you  start  a  tale,  you  must  play  up  to  the 
tale.  ^ 

But  that  was  only  the  beginning/  as  Tim  O'Halloran  soon 
found  out.  For  Tim  O'Halloran  had  tasted  many  things  before, 
but  not  responsibility,  and  now  responsibility  was  like  a  bit  in 
his  mouth.  It  was  not  so  bad  the  first  week,  while  the  leprechaun 
was  still  ailing.  But  when,  what  with  the  food  and  the  exercise, 
he  began  to  recover  his  strength,  'twas  a  wonder  Tim  O'Hal- 
loran's  hair  did  not  turn  gray  overnight.  He  was  not  a  bad  crea- 
ture, the  leprechaun,  but  he  had  all  the  natural  mischief  of  a 
boy  of  twelve  and,  added  to  that,  the  craft  and  knowledge  of 

There  was  the  three  pipes  and  the  pound  of  shag  the  lepre- 
chaun stole  from  McGinnis— and  the  dead  frog  he  slippea  in 
the  foreman's  tea— and  the  bottle  of  potheen  he  got  hold  of  one 
night  when  Tim  had  to  hold  his  head  in  a  bucket  of  water  to 
sober  him  up.  A  fortunate  thing  it  was  that  St.  Patrick  had  left 
him  no  great  powers,  but  at  that  he  had  enough  to  put  the  jump- 
ing rheumatism  on  Shaun  Kelly  for  two  days— and  it  wasn't  till 
Tim  threatened  to  deny  him  the  use  of  his  razor  entirely  that 
he  took  off  the  spell. 

That  brought  Rory  to  terms,  for  by  now  he'd  come  to  take 
a  queer  pleasure  in  playing  the  part  of  a  boy  and  he  did  not 
wish  to  have  it  altered. 

Well,  things  went  on  like  this  for  some  time,  and  Tim  O'Hal- 
loran's  savings  grew;  for  whenever  the  drink  was  running  he  took 
no  part  in  it,  for  fear  of  mislaying  his  wits  when  it  came  to  deal 
with  young  Rory.  And  as  it  was  with  the  drink,  so  was  it  with 
other  things— till  Tim  O'Halloran  began  to  be  known  as  a  steady 
man.  And  then,  as  it  happened  one  morning,  Tim  O'Halloran 
woke  up  early.  The  leprechaun  had  finished  his  shaving  and  was 
sitting  cross-legged,  chuckling  to  himself. 

"And  what's  your  source  of  amusement  so  early  in  the  day?'* 
said  Tim  sleepily. 

"Oh,"  said  the  leprechaun,  "I'm  just  thinking  of  the  rare  hard 
work  we'll  have  when  the  line's  ten  miles  farther  on." 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"And  why  should  it  be  harder  there  than  it  is  here?"  said 

"Oh,  nothing,"  said  the  leprechaun,  "but  those  fools  of  sur- 
veyors have  laid  out  the  line  where  there's  hidden  springs  of 
water.  And  when  w$  start  digging,  there'll  be  the  devil  to  pay." 

"Do  you  know  that  for  a  fact?"  said  Tim. 

"And  why  wouldn't  I  know  it?"  said  the  leprechaun.  "Me 
that  can  hear  the  waters  run  underground." 

"Then  what  should  we  do?"  said  Tim. 

"Shift  the  line  half  a  mile  to  the  west  and  you'd  have  a  firm 
roadbed,"  said  the  leprechaun. 

Tim  O'Halloran  said  no  more  at  the  time.  But  for  all  that,  he 
managed  to  get  to  the  assistant  engineer  in  charge  of  construction 
at  the  noon  hour.  He  could  not  have  done  it  before,  but  now 
he  was  known  as  a  steady  man.  Nor  did  he  tell  where  he  got  the 
information— he  put  it  on  having  seen  a  similar  thing  in  Clon- 

Well,  the  engineer  listened  to  him  and  had  a  test  made— and 
sure  enough,  they  struck  the  hidden  spring.  "That's  clever  work, 
O'Halloran,"  said  the  engineer.  "You've  saved  us  time  and  money. 
And  now  how  would  you  like  to  be  foreman  of  a  gang?" 

"I'd  like  it  well,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran. 

"Then  you  boss  Gang  Five  from  this  day  forward,"  said  the 
engineer.  "And  I'll  keep  my  eye  on  you.  I  like  a  man  that  uses 
his  head." 

"Can  my  nephew  come  with  me,"  said  Tim,  "for,  'troth,  he's 
my  responsibility?" 

"He  can,"  said  the  engineer,  who  had  children  of  his  own. 

So  Tim  got  promoted  and  the  leprechaun  along  with  him. 
And  the  first  day  on  the  new  work,  young  Rory  stole  the  gold 
watch  from  the  engineer's  pocket,  because  he  liked  the  tick  of 
it,  and  Tim  had  to  threaten  him  with  fire  and  sword  before  he'd 
put  it  back. 

Well,  things  went  on  like  this  for  another  while,  till  finally 
Tim  woke  up  early  on  another  morning  and  heard  the  lepre- 
chaun laughing. 

"And  what  are  you  laughing  at?"  he  said. 

"Oh,  the  more  I  see  of  mortal  work,  the  less  reason  there  is 
to  it,"  said  the  leprechaun.  "For  I've  been  watching  the  way 
they  get  the  rails  up  to  us  on  the  line.  And  they  do  it  thus  and  so. 


O'Halloratfs  Luck 

But  if  they  did  it  so  and  thus,  they  could  do  it  in  half  the  time 
with  half  the  work." 

"Is  that  so  indeed?"  said  Tim  O'Halloran,  and  he  made  him 
explain  it  clearly.  Then,  after  he'd  swallowed  his  breakfast,  he 
was  off  to  his  friend  the  engineer. 

"That's  a  clever  idea,  O'Halloran,"  said  the  engineer.  "We'll 
try  it."  And  a  week  after  that,  Tim  O'Halloran  found  himself 
with  a  hundred  men  under  him  and  more  responsibility  than  he'd 
ever  had  in  his  life.  But  it  seemed  little  to  him  beside  the  respon- 
sibility of  the  leprechaun,  and  now  the  engineer  began  to  lend 
him  books  to  study  and  he  studied  them  at  nights  while  the  lepre- 
chaun snored  in  its  blanket. 

A  man  could  rise  rapidly  in  those  days— and  it  was  then  Tim 
O'Halloran  got  the  start  that  was  to  carry  him  far.  But  he  did 
not  know  he  was  getting  it,  for  his  heart  was  near  broken  at  the 
time  over  Kitty  Malone.  She'd  written  him  a  letter  or  two  when 
he  first  came  West,  but  now  there  were  no  more  of  them  and 
at  last  he  got  a  word  from  her  family  telling  him  he  should  not 
be  disturbing  Kitty  with  letters  from  a  laboring  man.  That  was 
bitter  for  Tim  O'Halloran,  and  he'd  think  about  Kitty  and  the 
Orangeman  in  the  watches  of  the  night  and  groan.  And  then, 
one  morning,  he  woke  up  after  such  a  night  and  heard  the  lepre- 
chaun laughing. 

"And  what  are  you  laughing  at  now?"  he  said  sourly.  "For 
my  heart's  near  burst  with  its  pain." 

"I'm  laughing  at  a  man  that  would  let  a  cold  letter  keep  him 
from  his  love,  and  him  with  pay  in  his  pocket  and  the  contract 
ending  the  first,"  said  the  leprechaun. 

Tim  O'Halloran  struck  one  hand  in  the  palm  of  the  other. 

"By  the  piper,  but  you've  the  right  of  it,  you  queer  little  crea- 
ture!" he  said.  "  'Tis  back  to  Boston  we  go  when  this  job's  over." 

It  was  laborer  Tim  O'Halloran  that  had  come  to  the  West,  but 
it  was  Railroadman  Tim  O'Halloran  that  rode  back  East  in  the 
cars  like  a  gentleman,  with  a  free  pass  in  his  pocket  and  the  prom- 
ise of  a  job  on  the  railroad  that  was  fitting  a  married  man.  The 
leprechaun,  I  may  say,  gave  some  trouble  in  the  cars,  more  par- 
ticularly when  he  bit  a  fat  woman  that  called  him  a  dear  little 
boy;  but  what  with  giving  him  peanuts  all  the  way,  Tim  O'Hal- 
loran managed  to  keep  him  fairly  quieted. 

When  they  got  to  Boston  he  fitted  them  both  out  in  new 

Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

clothes  from  top  to  toe.  Then  he  gave  the  leprechaun  some 
money  and  told  him  to  amuse  himself  for  an  hour  or  so  while 
he  went  to  see  Kitty  Malone. 

He  walked  into  the  Malones'  flat  as  bold  as  brass,  and  there 
sure  enough,  in  the  front  room,  were  Kitty  Malone  and  the 
Orangeman.  He  was  trying  to  squeeze  her  hand,  and  she  refus- 
ing, and  it  made  Tim  O'Halloran's  blood  boil  to  see  that.  But 
when  Kitty  saw  Tim  O'Halloran  she  let  out  a  scream. 

"Oh,  Tim! "  she  said.  "Tim!  And  they  told  me  you  were  dead 
in  the  plains  of  the  West!" 

"And  a  great  pity  that  he  was  not,"  said  the  Orangeman, 
blowing  out  his  chest  with  the  brass  buttons  on  it,  "but  a  bad 
penny  always  turns  up." 

"Bad  penny  is  it,  you  brass-buttoned  son  of  iniquity,"  said  Tim 
O'Halloran.  "I  have  but  the  one  question  to  put  you.  Will  you 
stand  or  will  you  run?" 

"I'll  stand  as  we  stood  at  Boyne  Water,"  said  the  Orange- 
man, grinning  ugly.  "And  whose  backs  did  we  see  that  day?" 

"Oh,  is  that  the  tune?"  said  Tim  O'Halloran.  "Well,  I'll  give 
you  a  tune  to  match  it.  Who  fears  to  speak  of  Ninety-Eight?" 

With  that  he  was  through  the  Orangeman's  guard  and 
stretched  him  at  the  one  blow,  to  the  great  consternation  of  the 
Malones.  The  old  woman  started  to  screech  and  Pat  Malone  to 
talk  of  policemen,  but  Tim  O'Halloran  silenced  the  both  of 

"Would  you  be  giving  your  daughter  to  an  Orangeman  that 
works  on  the  horsecars,  when  she  might  be  marrying  a  future 
railroad  president?"  he  said.  And  with  that  he  pulled  his  savings 
out  of  his  pocket  and  the  letter  that  promised  the  job  for  a  mar- 
ried man.  That  quieted  the  Malones  a  little  and,  once  they  got 
a  good  look  at  Tim  O'Halloran,  they  began  to  change  their 
tune.  So,  after  they'd  got  the  Orangeman  out  of  the  house— and 
he  did  not  go  willing,  but  he  went  as  a  whipped  man  must— Tim 
O'Halloran  recounted  all  of  his  adventures. 

The  tale  did  not  lose  in  the  telling,  though  he  did  not  speak 
of  the  leprechaun,  for  he  thought  that  had  better  be  left  to  a 
later  day;  and  at  the  end  Pat  Malone  was  offering  him  a  cigar. 
"But  I  find  none  upon  me,"  said  he  with  a  wink  at  Tim,  "so  I'll 
just  run  down  to  the  corner." 

"And  I'll  go  with  you,"  said  Kitty's  mother,  "for  if  Mr. 


O'Halloran's  Luck 

O'Halloran  stays  to  supper— and  he's  welcome—there's  a  bit  of 
shopping  to  be  done." 

So  the  old  folks  left  Tim  O'Halloran  and  his  Kitty  alone.  But 
just  as  they  were  in  the  middle  of  their  planning  and  contriving 
for  the  future,  there  came  a  knock  on  the  door. 

"What's  that?"  said  Kitty,  but  Tim  O'Halloran  knew  well 
enough  and  his  heart  sank  within  him.  He  opened  the  door— and 
sure  enough,  it  was  the  leprechaun. 

"Well,  Uncle  Tim,"  said  the  creature,  grinning,  "Fm  here." 

Tim  O'Halloran  took  a  look  at  him  as  if  he  saw  him  for  the 
first  time.  He  was  dressed  in  new  clothes,  to  be  sure,  but  there 
was  soot  on  his  face  and  his  collar  had  thumbmarks  on  it  already. 
But  that  wasn't  what  made  the  difference.  New  clothes  or  old, 
if  you  looked  at  him  for  the  first  time,  you  could  see  he  was  an 
unchancy  thing,  and  not  like  Christian  souls. 

"Kitty,"  he  said,  "Kitty  darlint,  I  had  not  told  you.  But  this  is 
my  young  nephew,  Rory,  that  lives  with  me." 

Well,  Kitty  welcomed  the  boy  with  her  prettiest  manners, 
though  Tim  O'Halloran  could  see  her  giving  him  a  side  look 
now  and  then.  All  the  same,  she  gave  him  a  slice  of  cake,  and 
he  tore  it  apart  with  his  fingers;  but  in  the  middle  of  it  he  pointed 
to  Kitty  Malone. 

"Have  you  made  up  your  mind  to  marry  my  Uncle  Tim?"  he 
said.  "Faith,  you'd  better,  for  he's  a  grand  catch." 

"Hold  your  tongue,  young  Rory,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran  an- 
grily, and  Kitty  blushed  red.  But  then  she  took  the  next  words 
out  of  his  mouth. 

"Let  the  gossoon  be,  Tim  O'Halloran,"  she  said  bravely.  "Why 
shouldn't  he  speak  his  mind?  Yes,  Roryeen— it's  I  that  will  be 
your  aunt  in  the  days  to  come— and  a  proud  woman  too." 

"Well,  that's  good,"  said  the  leprechaun,  cramming  the  last 
of  the  cake  in  his  mouth,  "for  I'm  thinking  you'll  make  a  good 
home  for  us,  once  you're  used  to  my  ways:" 

"Is  that  to  be  the  way  of  it,  Tim?"  said  Kitty  Malone  very 
quietly,  but  Tim  O'Halloran  looked  at  her  and  knew  what  was 
in  her  mind.  And  he  had  the  greatest  impulse  in  the  world  to 
deny  the  leprechaun  and  send  him  about  his  business.  And  yet, 
when  he  thought  of  it,  he  knew  that  he  could  not  do  it,  not  even 
if  it  meant  the  losing  of  Kitty  Malone. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"I'm  afraid  that  must  be  the  way  of  it,  Kitty,"  he  said  with  a 

"Then  I  honor  you  for  it,"  said  Kitty,  with  her  eyes  like  stars. 
She  went  up  to  the  leprechaun  and  took  his  hard  little  hand. 
"Will  you  live  with  us,  young  Rory?"  she  said.  "For  we'd  be 
glad  to  have  you." 

"Thank  you  kindly,  Kitty  Malone— O'Halloran  to  be,"  said 
the  leprechaun.  "And  you're  lucky,  Tim  O'Halloran— lucky  your- 
self and  lucky  in  your  wife.  For  if  you  had  denied  me  then,  your 
luck  would  have  left  you— and  if  she  had  denied  me  then, 
'twould  be  but  half  luck  for  you  both.  But  now  the  luck  will 
stick  to  you  the  rest  of  your  lives.  And  I'm  wanting  another 
piece  of  cake,"  said  he. 

"Well,  it's  a  queer  lad  you  are,"  said  Kitty  Malone,  but  she 
went  for  the  cake.  The  leprechaun  swung  his  legs  and  looked 
at  Tim  O'Halloran.  "I  wonder  what  keeps  my  hands  off  you," 
said  the  latter  with  a  groan. 

"Fie!"  said  the  leprechaun,  grinning,  "and  would  you  be  lift- 
ing the  hand  to  your  one  nephew?  But  tell  me  one  thing,  Tim 
O'Halloran,  was  this  wife  you're  to  take  ever  in  domestic  serv- 

"And  what  if  she  was?"  said  Tim  O'Halloran,  firing  up.  "Who 
thinks  the  worse  of  her  for  that?" 

"Not  I,"  said  the  leprechaun,  "for  I've  learned  about  mortal 
labor  since  I  came  to  this  country— and  it's  an  honest  thing.  But 
tell  me  one  thing  more.  Do  you  mean  to  serve  this  wife  of  yours 
and  honor  her  through  the  days  of  your  wedded  life?" 

"Such  is  my  intention,"  said  Tim,  "though  what  business  it 
is  of-" 

"Never  mind,"  said  the  leprechaun.  "Your  shoelace  is  undone, 
bold  man.  Command  me  to  tie  it  up." 

"Tie  up  my  shoe,  you  black-hearted,  villainous  little  anatomy!" 
thundered  Tim  O'Halloran,  and  the  leprechaun  did  so.  Then 
he  jumped  to  his  feet  and  skipped  about  the  room. 

"Free!  Free!"  he  piped.  "Free  at  last!  For  I've  served  the 
servants  of  servants  and  the  doom  has  no  power  on  me  longer. 
Free,  Tim  O'Halloran!  O'Halloran's  Luck  is  free!" 

Tim  O'Halloran  stared  at  him,  dumb;  and  even  as  he  stared, 
the  creature  seemed  to  change.  He  was  small,  to  be  sure,  and 
boyish— but  you  could  see  the  unchancy  look  leave  him  and  the 


VHallorarfs  Luck 

Christian  soul  come  into  his  eyes.  That  was  a  queer  thing  to 
be  seen,  and  a  great  one  too. 

"Well,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran  in  a  sober  voice,  "I'm  glad  for 
you,  Rory.  For  now  you'll  be  going  back  to  Clonmelly,  no 
doubt—and  faith,  you've  earned  the  right." 

The  leprechaun  shook  his  head. 

"Clonmelly's  a  fine,  quiet  place,"  said  he,  "but  this  country's 
bolder.  I  misdoubt  it's  something  in  the  air— you  will  not  have 
noticed  it,  but  I've  grown  two  inches  and  a  half  since  first  I 
met  you,  and  I  feel  myself  growing  still.  No,  it's  off  to  the 
mines  of  the  West  I  am,  to  follow  my  natural  vocation— for  they 
say  there  are  mines  out  there  you  could  mislay  all  Dublin  Castle 
in— and  wouldn't  I  like  to  try!  But  speaking  of  that,  Tim  O'Hal- 
loran," he  said,  "I  was  not  .quite  honest  with  you  about  the  pot 
of  gold.  You'll  find  your  share  behind  the  door  when  I've  gone. 
And  now  good  day  and  long  life  to  you!" 

"But,  man  dear,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran,  "'tis  not  good-by!" 
For  it  was  then  he  realized  the  affection  that  was  in  him  for  the 
queer  little  creature. 

"No,  'tis  not  good-by,"  said  the  leprechaun.  "When  you 
christen  your  first  son,  I'll  be  at  his  cradle,  though  you  may  not 
see  me— and  so  with  your  sons'  sons  and  their  sons,  for  O'Hal- 
loran's  luck's  just  begun.  But  we'll  part  for  the  present  now.  For 
now  I'm  a  Christian  soul,  I've  work  to  do  in  the  world." 

"Wait  a  minute,"  said  Tim  O'Halloran.  "For  you  would  not 
know,  no  doubt,  and  you  such  a  new  soul.  And  no  doubt  you'll 
be  seeing  the  priest— but  a  layman  can  do  it  in  an  emergency  and 
I  think  this  is  one.  I  dare  not  have  you  leave  me— and  you  not 
even  baptized." 

And  with  that  he  made  the  sign  of  the  cross  and  baptized 
the  leprechaun.  He  named  him  Rory  Patrick. 

"  'Tis  not  done  with  all  the  formalities,"  he  said  at  the  end, 
"but  I'll  defend  the  intention." 

"I'm  grateful  to  you,"  said  the  leprechaun.  "And  if  there  was 
a  debt  to  be  paid,  you've  paid  it  back  and  more." 

And  with  that  he  was  gone  somehow,  arid  Tim  O'Halloran 
was  alone  in  the  room.  He  rubbed  his  eyes.  But  there  was  a  lit- 
tle sack  behind  the  door,  where  the  leprechiun  had  left  it—and 
Kitty  was  coming  in  with  a  slice  of  cake  on  a  plate. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Well,  Tim,"  she  said,  "and  where's  that  young  nephew  of 

So  he  took  her  into  his  arms  and  told  her  the  whole  story. 
And  how  much  of  it  she  believed,  I  do  not  know.  But  there's 
one  remarkable  circumstance.  Ever  since  then,  there's  always 
been  one  Rory  O'Halloran  in  the  family,  and  that  one  luckier 
than  the  lave.  And  when  Tim  O'Halloran  got  to  be  a  railroad 
president,  why,  didn't  he  call  his  private  car  "The  Leprechaun"? 
For  that  matter,  they  said,  when  he  took  his  business  trips  there'd 
be  a  small  boyish-looking  fellow  would  be  with  him  now  and 
again.  He'd  turn  up  from  nowhere,  at  some  odd  stop  or  other, 
and  he'd  be  let  in  at  once,  while  the  great  of  the  railroad 
world  were  kept  waiting  in  the  vestibule.  And  after  a  while, 
therc'd  be  singing  from  inside  the  car. 


Where  was  a  town  called  Shady,  Georgia,  and  a  time  that's 
gone,  and  a  boy  named  Jimmy  Williams  who  was  curious  about 
things.  Just  a  few  years  before  the  turn  of  the  century  it  was, 
and  that  seems  far  away  now.  But  Jimmy  Williams  was  living 
in  it,  anc  it  didn't  seem  far  away  to  him. 

It  was  a  small  town,  Shady,  and  sleepy,  though  it  had  two  trains 
a  day  and  they  were  putting  through  a  new  spur  to  Vickery 

They'd  dedicated  the  War  Memorial  in  the  Square,  but,  on 
market  days,  you'd  still  see  oxcarts  on  Main  Street.  And  once, 
when  Jimmy  Williams  was  five,  there'd  been  a  light  fall  of  snow 
and  the  whole  town  had  dropped  its  business  and  gone  out  to  see 
it.  He  could  still  remember  the  feel  of  the  snow  in  his  hands, 
for  it  was  the  only  snow  he'd  ever  touched  or  seen. 

He  was  a  bright  boy—maybe  a  little  too  bright  for  his  age. 
He'd  think  about  a  thing  till  it  seemed  real  to  him—and  that's 
a  dangerous  gift.  His  father  was  the  town  doctor,  and  his  father 
would  try  to  show  him  the  difference,  but  Doctor  Williams 
was  a  right  busy  man.  And  the  other  Williams  children  were  a 
good  deal  younger  and  his  mother  was  busy  with  them.  So  Jimmy 


The  Die-Hard 

had  more  time  to  himself  than  most  boys— and  youth's  a  dreamy 

I  reckon  it  was  that  got  him  interested  in  Old  Man  Cappalow, 
in  the  first  place.  Every  town  has  its  legends  and  characters, 
and  Old  Man  Cappalow  was  one  of  Shady's.  He  lived  out  of 
town,  on  the  old  Vincey  place,  all  alone  except  for  a  light-col- 
ored Negro  named  Sam  that  he'd  brought  from  Virginia  with 
him;  and  the  local  Negroes  wouldn't  pass  along  that  road  at 
night.  That  was  partly  because  of  Sam,  who  was  supposed  to  be 
a  conjur,  but  mostly  on  account  of  Old  Man  Cappalow.  He'd 
come  in  the  troubled  times,  right  after  the  end  of  the  war,  and 
ever  since  then  he'd  kept  himself  to  himself.  Except  that  once 
a  month  he  went  down  to  the  bank  and  drew  money  that  came 
in  a  letter  from  Virginia.  But  how  he  spent  it,  nobody  knew. 
Except  that  he  had  a  treasure— every  boy  in  Shady  knew  that. 

Now  and  then,  a  gang  of  them  would  get  bold  and  they'd 
rattle  sticks  along  the  sides  of  his  fence  and  yell,  "Old  Man  Cap- 
palow! Where's  your  money?"  But  then  the  light-colored  Negro, 
Sam,  would  come  out  on  the  porch  and  look  at  them,  and  they'd 
run  away.  They  didn't  want  to  be  conjured,  and  you  couldn't 
be  sure.  But  on  the  way  home,  they'd  speculate  and  wonder 
about  the  treasure,  and  each  time  they  speculated  and  wondered, 
it  got  bigger  to  them. 

Some  said  it  was  the  last  treasure  of  the  Confederacy,  saved 
right  up  to  the  end  to  build  a  new  Alabama,  and  that  Old  Man 
Cappalow  had  sneaked  it  out  of  Richmond  when  the  city  fell  and 
kept  it  for  himself;  only  now  he  didn't  dare  spend  it,  for  the  mark 
of  Cain  was  on  every  piece.  And  some  said  it  came  from  the  sea 
islands,  where  the  pirates  had  left  it,  protected  by  h'ants  and 
devils,  and  Old  Man  Cappalow  had  had  to  fight  devils  for  it  six 
days  and  six  nights  before  he  could  take  it  away.  And  if  you 
looked  inside  his  shirt,  you  could  see  the  long  white  marks  where 
the  devils  had  clawed  him.  Well,  sir,  some  said  one  thing  and  some 
said  another.  But  they  all  agreed  it  was  there,  and  it  got  to  be  a 
byword  among  the  boys  of  the  town. 

It  used  to  bother  Jimmy  Williams  tremendously.  Because  he 
knew  his  father  worked  hard,  and  yet  sometimes  he'd  only  get 
fifty  cents  a  visit,  and  often  enough  he'd  get  nothing.  And  he 
knew  his  mother  worked  hard,  and  that  most  folks  in  Shady 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

weren't  rich.  And  yet,  all  the  time,  there  was  that  treasure,  sitting 
out  at  Old  Man  Cappalow's.  He  didn't  mean  to  steal  it  exactly.  I 
don't  know  just  what  he  did  intend  to  do  about  it.  But  the  idea 
of  it  bothered  him  and  stayed  at  the  back  of  his  mind.  Till,  finally, 
one  summer  when  he  was  turned  thirteen,  he  started  making  ex- 
peditions to  the  Cappalow  place. 

He'd  go  in  the  cool  of  the  morning  or  the  cool  of  the  after- 
noon, and  sometimes  he'd  be  fighting  Indians  and  Yankees  on  the 
way,  because  he  was  still  a  boy,  and  sometimes  he  was  thinking 
what  he'd  be  when  he  grew  up,  for  he  was  starting  to  be  a  man. 
But  he  never  told  the  other  boys  what  he  was  doing— and  that 
was  the  mixture  of  both.  He'd  slip  from  the  road,  out  of  sight  of 
the  house,  and  go  along  by  the  fence.  Then  he'd  lie  down  in  the 
grass  and  the  weeds,  and  look  at  the  house. 

It  had  been  quite  a  fine  place  once,  but  now  the  porch  was 
sagging  and  there  were  mended  places  in  the  roof  and  paper 
pasted  over  broken  windowpanes.  But  that  didn't  mean  much  to 
Jimmy  Williams;  he  was  used  to  houses  looking  like  that.  There 
was  a  garden  patch  at  the  side,  neat  and  well-kept,  and  sometimes 
he'd  see  the  Negro,  Sam,  there,  working.  But  what  he  looked  at 
mostly  was  the  side  porch.  For  Old  Man  Cappalow  would  be  sit- 
ting there. 

He  sat  there,  cool  and  icy-looking,  in  his  white  linen  suit,  on 
his  cane  chair,  and  now  and  then  he'd  have  a  leather-bound  book 
in  his  hand,  though  he  didn't  often  read  it.  He  didn't  move  much, 
but  he  sat  straight,  his  hands  on  his  knees  and  his  black  eyes  alive. 
There  was  something  about  his  eyes  that  reminded  Jimmy  Wil- 
liams of  the  windows  of  the  house.  They  weren't  blind,  indeed 
they  were  bright,  but  there  was  something  living  behind  them 
that  wasn't  usual.  You  didn't  expect  them  to  be  so  black,  with  his 
white  hair.  Jimmy  Williams  had  seen  a  governor  once,  on  Memor- 
ial Day,  but  the  governor  didn't  look  half  as  fine.  This  man  was 
like  a  man  made  of  ice—ice  in  the  heat  of  the  South.  You  could  see 
he  was  old,  but  you  couldn't  tell  how  old,  or  whether  he'd  ever 

Once  in  a  great  while  he'd  come  out  and  shoot  at  a  mark.  The 
mark  was  a  kind  of  metal  shield,  nailed  up  on  a  post,  and  it  had 
been  painted  once,  but  the  paint  had  worn  away.  He'd  hold  the 
pistol  very  steady,  and  the  bullets  would  go  "whang,  whang"  on 
the  metal,  very  loud  in  the  stillness.  Jimmy  Williams  would  watch 

The  Die-Hard 

him  and  wonder  if  that  was  the  way  he'd  fought  with  his  devils, 
and  speculate  about  all  kinds  of  things. 

All  the  same,  he  was  only  a  boy,  and  though  it  was  fun  and 
scary,  to  get  so  near  Old  Man  Cappalow  without  being  seen,  and 
he'd  have  a  grand  tale  to  tell  the  others,  if  he  ever  decided  to  tell 
it,  he  didn't  see  any  devils  or  any  treasure.  And  probably  he'd 
have  given  the  whole  business  up  in  the  end,  boylike,  if  some- 
thing hadn't  happened. 

He  was  lying  in  the  weeds  by  the  fence,  one  warm  afternoon, 
and,  boylike,  he  fell  asleep.  And  he  was  just  in  the  middle  of  a 
dream  where  Old  Man  Cappalow  was  promising  him  a  million 
dollars  if  he'd  go  to  the  devil  to  get  it,  when  he  was  wakened  by 
a  rustle  in  the  weeds  and  a  voice  that  said,  "White  boy." 

Jimmy  Williams  rolled  over  and  froze.  For  there,  just  half  a 
dozen  steps  away  from  him,  was  the  light-colored  Negro,  Sam,  in 
his  blue  jeans,  the  way  he  worked  in  the  garden  patch,  but  look- 
ing like  the  butler  at  the  club  for  all  that. 

I  reckon  if  Jimmy  Williams  had  been  on  his  feet,  he'd  have  run. 
But  he  wasn't  on  his  feet.  And  he  told  himself  he  didn't  mean  to 
run,  though  his  heart  began  to  pound. 

"White  boy,"  said  the  light-colored  Negro,  "Marse  John  see 
you  from  up  at  the  house.  He  send  you  his  obleegances  and  say 
will  you  step  that  way."  He  spoke  in  a  light,  sweet  voice,  and 
there  wasn't  a  thing  in  his  manners  you  could  have  objected  to. 
But  just  for  a  minute,  Jimmy  Williams  wondered  if  he  was  being 
conjured.  And  then  he  didn't  care.  Because  he  was  going  to  do 
what  no  boy  in  Shady  had  ever  done.  He  was  going  to  walk 
into  Old  Man  Cappalow's  house  and  not  be  scared.  He  wasn't 
going  to  be  scared,  though  his  heart  kept  pounding. 

He  scrambled  to  his  feet  and  followed  the  line  of  the  fence  till 
he  got  to  the  driveway,  the  light-colored  Negro  just  a  little  be- 
hind him.  And  when  they  got  near  the  porch,  Jimmy  Williams 
stopped  and  took  a  leaf  and  wiped  off  his  shoes,  though  he 
couldn't  have  told  you  why.  The  Negro  stood  watching  while 
he  did  it,  perfectly  at  ease.  Jimmy  Williams  could  see  that  the 
Negro  thought  better  of  him  for  wiping  off  his  shoes,  but  not 
much.  And  that  made  him  mad,  and  he  wanted  to  say,  "I'm  no 
white  trash.  My  father's  a  doctor,"  but  he  knew  better  than  to 
say  it.  He  just  wiped  his  shoes  and  the  Negro  stood  and  waited. 


Stephen  Vincent  Bentt 

Then  the  Negro  took  him  around  to  the  side  porch,  and  there 
was  Old  Man  Cappalow,  sitting  in  his  cane  chair. 

"White  boy  here,  Marse  John,"  said  the  Negro  in  his  low, 
sweet  voice. 

The  old  man  lifted  his  head,  and  his  black  eyes  looked  at  Jimmy 
Williams.  It  was  a  long  stare  and  it  went  to  Jimmy  Williams' 

"Sit  down,  boy,"  he  said,  at  last,  and  his  voice  was  friendly 
enough,  but  Jimmy  Williams  obeyed  it.  "You  can  go  along,  Sam," 
he  said,  and  Jimmy  Williams  sat  on  the  edge  of  a  cane  chair  and 
tried  to  feel  comfortable.  He  didn't  do  very  well  at  it,  but  he 

"What's  your  name,  boy?"  said  the  old  man,  after  a  while. 

"Jimmy  Williams,  sir,"  said  Jimmy  Williams.  "I  mean  James 
Williams,  Junior,  sir." 

"Williams,"  said  the  old  man,  and  his  black  eyes  glowed. 
"There  was  a  Colonel  Williams  with  the  Sixty-fifth  Virginia— or 
was  it  the  Sixty-third?  He  came  from  Fairfax  County  and  was 
quite  of  my  opinion  that  we  should  have  kept  to  primogeniture, 
in  spite  of  Thomas  Jefferson.  But  I  doubt  if  you  are  kin." 

"No,  sir,"  said  Jimmy  Williams.  "I  mean,  Father  was  with 
the  Ninth  Georgia.  And  he  was  a  private.  They  were  aiming 
to  make  him  a  corporal,  he  says,  but  they  never  got  around 
to  it.  But  he  fit—he  fought  lots  of  Yankees.  He  fit  tons  of  'em. 
And  I've  seen  his  uniform.  But  now  he's  a  doctor  instead." 

The  old  man  seemed  to  look  a  little  queer  at  that.  UA  doctor?" 
he  said.  "Well,  some  very  reputable  gentlemen  have  practiced 
medicine.  There  need  be  no  loss  of  standing." 

"Yes,  sir,"  said  Jimmy  Williams.  Then  he  couldn't  keep  it 
back  any  longer:  "Please,  sir,  were  you  ever  clawed  by  the 
devil?"  he  said. 

"Ha-hrrm!"  said  the  old  man,  looking  startled.  "You're  a  queer 
boy.  And  suppose  I  told  you  I  had  been?" 

"I'd  believe  you,"  said  Jimmy  Williams,  and  the  old  man 
laughed.  He  did  it  as  if  he  wasn't  used  to  it,  but  he  did  it. 

"Clawed  by  the  devil!"  he  said.  "Ha-hrrm!  You're  a  bold  boy. 
I  didn't  know  they  grew  them  nowadays.  I'm  surprised."  But 
he  didn't  look,  angry,  as  Jimmy  Williams  had  expected  him  to. 

"Well,"  said  Jimmy  Williams,  "if  you  had  been,  I  thought 

The  Die-Hard 

maybe  you'd  tell  me  about  it.  I'd  be  right  interested.  Or  mayb« 
let  me  see  the  clawmarks.  I  mean,  if  they're  there." 

"I  can't  show  you  those,"  said  the  old  man,  "though  they're 
deep  and  wide."  And  he  stared  fiercely  at  Jimmy  Williams. 
"But  you  weren't  Afraid  to  come  here  and  you  wiped  your  shoes 
when  you  came.  So  I'll  show  you  something  else."  He  rose 
and  was  tall.  "Come  into  the  house,"  he  said. 

So  Jimmy  Williams  got  up  and  went  into  the  house  with 
him.  It  was  a  big,  cool,  dim  room  they  went  into,  and  Jimmy 
Williams  didn't  see  much  at  first.  But  then  his  eyes  began  to 
get  used  to  the  dimness. 

Well,  there  were  plenty  of  houses  in  Shady  where  the  rooms 
were  cool  and  dim  and  the  sword  hung  over  the  mantelpiece  and 
the  furniture  was  worn  and  old.  It  wasn't  that  made  the  differ- 
ence. But  stepping  into  this  house  was  somehow  like  stepping 
back  into  the  past,  though  Jimmy  Williams  couldn't  have  put 
it  that  way.  He  just  knew  it  was  full  of  beautiful  things  and 
grand  things  that  didn't  quite  fit  it,  and  yet  all  belonged  to- 
gether. And  they  knew  they  were  grand  and  stately,  and  yet 
there  was  dust  in  the  air  and  a  shadow  on  the  wall.  It  was  peace- 
ful enough  and  handsome  enough,  yet  it  didn't  make  Jimmy 
Williams  feel  comfortable,  though  he  couldn't  have  told  you 

"Well,"  said  the  old  man,  moving  about  among  shadows,  "how 
do  you  like  it,  Mr.  Williams?" 

"It's—I  never  saw  anything  like  it,"  said  Jimmy  Williams. 

The  old  man  seemed  pleased.  "Touch  the  things,  boy,"  he  said. 
"Touch  the  things.  They  don't  mind  being  touched." 

So  Jimmy  Williams  went  around  the  room,  staring  at  the 
miniatures  and  the  pictures,  and  picking  up  one  thing  or  an- 
other and  putting  it  down.  He  was  very  careful  and  he  didn't 
break  anything.  And  there  were  some  wonderful  things.  There 
was  a  game  of  chess  on  a  table— carved-ivory  pieces— a  game  that 
people  had  started,  but  hadn't  finished.  He  didn't  touch  those, 
though  he  wanted  to,  because  he  felt  the  people  might  not  like 
it  when  they  came  back  to  finish  their  game.  And  yet,  at  the  same 
time,  he  felt  that  if  they  ever  did  come  back,  they'd  be  dead, 
and  that  made  him  feel  queerer.  There  were  silver-mounted  pis- 
tols, long-barreled,  on  a  desk  by  a  big  silver  inkwell;  there  was 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

a  quill  pen  made  of  a  heron's  feather,  and  a  silver  sandbox  be- 
side it— there  were  all  sorts  of  curious  and  interesting  things. 
Finally  Jimmy  Williams  stopped  in  front  of  a  big,  tall  clock. 

"I'm  sorry,  sir/'  he  said,  ubut  I  don't  think  that's  the  right 

"Oh,  yes,  it  is,"  said  the  old  man.  "It's  always  the  right  time." 

"Yes,  sir,"  said  Jimmy  Williams,  "but  it  isn't  running." 

"Of  course  not,"  said  the  old  man.  "They  say  you  can't  put 
the  clock  back,  but  you  can.  I've  put  it  back  and  I  mean  to  keep 
it  back.  The  others  can  do  as  they  please.  I  warned  them— I 
warned  them  in  1850,  when  they  accepted  the  Compromise.  I 
warned  them  there  could  be  no  compromise.  Well,  they  would 
not  be  warned." 

"Was  that  bad  of  them,  sir?"  asked  Jimmy  Williams. 

"It  was  misguided  of  them,"  said  the  old  man.  "Misguided  of 
them  all."  He  seemed  to  be  talking  more  to  himself  than  to 
Jimmy,  but  Jimmy  Williams  couldn't  help  listening.  "There  can 
be  no  compromise  with  one's  class  or  one's  breeding  or  one's 
sentiments,  the  old  man  said.  "Afterwards— well,  there  were 
gentlemen  I  knew  who  went  to  Guatemala  or  elsewhere.  I  do 
not  blame  them  for  it.  But  mine  is  another  course."  He  paused 
and  glanced  at  the  clock.  Then  he  spoke  in  a  different  voice.  "I 
beg  your  pardon,"  he  said.  "I  fear  I  was  growing  heated.  You 
will  excuse  me.  I  generally  take  some  refreshment  around  this 
time  in  the  afternoon.  Perhaps  you  will  join  me,  Mr.  Williams?" 

It  didn't  seem  to  Jimmy  Williams  as  if  the  silver  hand  bell 
in  the  old  man's  hand  had  even  stopped  ringing  before  the  Negro, 
Sam,  came  in  with  a  tray.  He  had  a  queer  kind  of  old-fashioned 
long  coat  on  now,  and  a  queer  old-fashioned  cravat,  but  his 
pants  were  the  pants  of  his  blue  jeans.  Jimmy  Williams  noticed 
that,  but  Old  Man  Cappalow  didn't  seem  to  notice. 

"Yes,"  he  said,  "there  are  many  traitors.  Men  I  held  in  the 
greatest  esteem  have  betrayed  their  class  and  their  system.  They 
have  accepted  ruin  and  domination  in  the  name  of  advancement. 
But  we  will  not  speak  of  them  now."  He  took  the  frosted  silver 
cup  from  the  tray  and  motioned  to  Jimmy  Williams  that  the  small 
fluted  glass  was  for  him.  "I  shall  ask  you  to  rise,  Mr.  Williams," 
he  said.  "We  shall  drink  a  toast."  He  paused  for  a  moment, 
standing  straight.  "To  the  Confederate  States  of  America  and 
damnation  to  all  her  enemies!"  he  said. 


The  Die-Hard 

Jimmy  Williams  drank.  He'd  never  drunk  any  wine  before, 
except  blackberry  cordial,  and  this  wine  seemed  to  him  power- 
fully thin  and  sour.  But  he  felt  grown  up  as  he  drank  it,  and 
that  was  a  fine  feeling. 

"Every  night  of  my  life,"  said  the  old  man,  "I  drink  that  toast. 
And  usually  I  drink  it  alone.  But  I  am  glad  of  your  company, 
Mr.  Williams." 

"Yes,  sir,"  said  Jimmy  Williams,  but  all  the  same,  he  felt  queer. 
For  drinking  the  toast,  somehow,  had  been  very  solemn,  almost 
like  being  in  church.  But  in  church  you  didn't  exactly  pray  for 
other  people's  damnation,  though  the  preacher  might  get  right 
excited  over  sin. 

Well,  then  the  two  of  them  sat  down  again,  and  Old  Man 
Cappalow  began  to  talk  of  the  great  plantation  days  and  the 
world  as  it  used  to  be.  Of  course,  Jimmy  Williams  had  heard 
plenty  of  talk  of  that  sort.  But  this  was  different.  For  the  old 
man  talked  of  those  days  as  if  they  were  still  going  on,  not  as  if 
they  were  past.  And  as  he  talked,  the  whole  room  seemed  to 
join  in,  with  a  thousand,  sighing,  small  voices,  stately  and  clear, 
till  Jimmy  Williams  didn't  know  whether  he  was  on  his  head 
or  his  heels  and  it  seemed  quite  natural  to  him  to  look  at  the 
fresh,  crisp  Richmond  newspaper  on  the  desk  and  see  it  was 
dated  "June  14,  1859"  instead  of  "June  14,  1897."  Well,  maybe 
it  was  the  wine,  though  he'd  only  had  a  thimbleful.  But  when 
Jimmy  Williams  went  out  into  the  sun  again,  he  felt  changed, 
and  excited  too.  For  he  knew  about  Old  Man  Cappalow  now, 
and  he  was  just  about  the  grandest  person  in  the  world. 

The  Negro  went  a  little  behind  him,  all  the  way  to  the  gate, 
on  soft  feet.  When  they  got  there,  the  Negro  opened  the  gate 
and  spoke. 

"Young  marster,"  he  said,  "I  don't  know  why  Marse  John 
took  in  his  head  to  ask  you  up  to  the  house.  But  we  lives  private, 
me  and  Marse  John.  We  lives  very  private."  There  was  a  curious 
pleading  in  his  voice. 

"I  don't  tell  tales,"  said  Jimmy  Williams,  and  kicked  at  the 

"Yes,  sir,"  said  the  Negro,  and  he  seemed  relieved.  "I  knew 
you  one  of  the  right  ones.  I  knew  that.  But  we'se  living  very 
private  till  the  big  folks  come  back.  We  don't  want  no  tales 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

;pread  before.  And  then  we'se  going  back  to  Otranto,  the  way 
kve  should." 

"I  know  about  Otranto.  He  told  me,"  said  Jimmy  Williams, 
:atching  his  breath. 

"Otranto  Marse  John's  plantation  in  Verginny,"  said  the 
^Tegro,  as  if  he  hadn't  heard.  "He  owns  the  river  and  the  valley, 
:he  streams  and  the  hills.  We  got  four  hundred  field  hands  at 
Dtranto  and  stables  for  sixty  horses.  But  we  can't  go  back  there 
ill  the  big  folks  come  back.  Marse  John  say  so,  and  he  always 
;peak  the  truth.  But  they's  goin'  to  come  back,  a-shootin'  and 
Dirootin',  they  pistols  at  they  sides.  And  every  day  I  irons  his 
Richmond  paper  for  him  and  he  reads  about  the  old  times.  We 
jot  boxes  and  boxes  of  papers  down  in  the  cellar."  He  paused. 
'And  if  he  say  the  old  days  come  back,  it  bound  to  be  so,"  he 
;aid.  Again  his  voice  held  that  curious  pleading,  "You  remember, 
foung  marster,"  he  said.  "You  remember,  white  boy." 

"I  told  you  I  didn't  tell  tales,"  said  Jimmy  Williams.  But  after 
hat,  things  were  different  for  him.  Because  there's  one  thing 
ibout  a  boy  that  age  that  most  grown  people  forget.  A  boy  that 
ige  can  keep  a  secret  in  a  way  that's  perfectly  astonishing.  And 
ic  can  go  through  queer  hells  and  heavens  you'll  never  hear  a 
tvord  about,  not  even  if  you  got  him  or  bore  him. 

It  was  that  way  with  Jimmy  Williams;  it  mightn't  have  been 
:or  another  boy.  It  began  like  a  game,  and  then  it  stopped  being 
i  game.  For,  of  course,  he  went  back  to  Old  Man  Cappalow's. 
\nd  the  Negro,  Sam,  would  show  him  up  to  the  house  and  he'd 
;it  in  the  dim  room  with  the  old  man  and  drink  the  toast  in  the 
kvine;  And  it  wasn't  Old  Man  Cappalow  any  more;  it  was  Col. 
fohn  Leonidas  Cappalow,  who'd  raised  and  equipped  his  own 
•egiment  and  never  surrendered.  Only,  when  the  time  was  ripe, 
ie  was  going  back  to  Otranto,  and  the  old  days  would  bloom 
igain,  and  Jimmy  Williams  would  be  part  of  them. 

When  he  shut  his  eyes  at  night,  he  could  see  Otranto  and  its 
porches,  above  the  rolling  river,  great  and  stately;  he  could  hear 
:he  sixty  horses  stamping  in  their  stalls.  He  could  see  the  pretty 
jirls,  in  their  wide  skirts,  coming  down  the  glassy,  proud  stair- 
:ases;  he  could  see  the  fine,  handsome  gentlemen  who  ruled  the 
jarth  and  the  richness  of  it  without  a  thought  of  care.  It  was 
dl  like  a  storybook  to  Jimmy  Williams—a  storybook  come  true. 


The  Die-Hard 

And  more  than  anything  he'd  ever  wanted  in  his  life,  he  wanted 
to  be  part  of  it. 

The  only  thing  was,  it  was  hard  to  fit  the  people  he  really 
knew  into  the  story.  Now  and  then  Colonel  Cappalow  would 
ask  him  gravely  if  he  knew  anyone  else  in  Shady  who  was  worthy 
of  being  trusted  with  the  secret.  Well,  there  were  plenty  of  boys 
like  Bob  Miller  and  Tommy  Vine,  but  somehow  you  couldn't 
see  them  in  the  dim  room.  They'd  fit  in,  all  right,  when  the 
great  days  came  back—they'd  have  to— but  meanwhile— well,  they 
might  just  take  it  for  a  tale.  And  then  there  was  Carrie,  the  cook. 
She'd  have  to  be  a  slave  again,  of  course,  and  though  Jimmy 
Williams  didn't  imagine  that  she'd  mind,  now  and  then  he  had 
just  a  suspicion  that  she  might.  He  didn't  ask  her  about  it,  but  he 
had  the  suspicion. 

It  was  even  hard  to  fit  Jimmy's  father  in,  with  his  little  black 
bag  and  his  rumpled  clothes  and  his  laugh.  Jimmy  couldn't  quite 
see  his  father  going  up  the  front  steps  of  Otranto— not  because 
he  wasn't  a  gentleman  or  grand  enough,  but  because  it  just  didn't 
happen  to  be  his  kind  of  place.  And  then,  his  father  didn't  really 
hate  anybody,  as  far  as  Jimmy  knew.  But  you  had  to  hate  people 
a  good  deal,  if  you  wanted  to  follow  Colonel  Cappalow.  You 
had  to  shoot  at  the  mark  and  feel  you  were  really  shooting  the 
enemy's  colors  down.  You  had  to  believe  that  even  people  like 
General  Lee  had  been  wrong,  because  they  hadn't  held  out  in 
the  mountains  and  fought  till  everybody  died.  Well,  it  was  hard 
to  believe  a  wrong  thing  of  General  Lee,  and  Jimmy  Williams 
didn't  quite  manage  it.  He  was  willing  to  hate  the  Yankees  and 
the  Republicans— hate  them  hot  and  hard— but  there  weren't  any 
of  them  in  Shady.  Well,  come  to  think  of  it,  there  was  Mr. 
Rosen,  at  the  dry-goods  store,  and  Mr.  Ailey,  at  the  mill.  They 
didn't  look  very  terrible  and  he  was  used  to  them,  but  he  tried 
to  hate  them  all  he  could.  He  got  hold  of  the  Rosen  boy  one  day 
and  rocked  him  home,  but  the  Rosen  boy  cried,  and  Jimmy  felt 
mean  about  it.  But  if  he'd  ever  seen  a  real  live  Republican,  with 
horns  and  a  tail,  he'd  have  done  him  a  mortal  injury— he  felt  sur& 
he  would. 

And  so  the  summer  passed,  and  by  the  end  of  the  summer 
Jimmy  didn't  feel  quite  sure  which  was  real— the  times  now  or 
the  times  Colonel  Cappalow  talked  about.  For  he'd  dream  about 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

Otranto  at  night  and  think  of  it  during  the  day.  He'd  ride  back 
there  on  a  black  horse,  at  Colonel  Cappalow's  left,  and  his  saber 
would  be  long  and  shining.  But  if  there  was  a  change  in  him, 
there  was  a  change  in  Colonel  Cappalow  too.  He  was  a  lot  more 
excitable  than  he  used  to  be,  and  when  he  talked  to  Jimmy 
sometimes,  he'd  call  him  by  other  names,  and  when  he  shot  at 
the  mark  with  the  enemy's  colors  on  it,  his  eyes  would  blaze.  So 
by  that,  and  by  the  news  he  read  out  of  the  old  papers,  Jimmy 
suddenly  got  to  know  that  the  time  was  near  at  hand.  They  had 
the  treasure  all  waiting,  and  soon  they'd  be  ready  to  rise.  And 
Colonel  Cappalow  filled  out  Jimmy  Williams'  commission  as  cap- 
tain in  the  army  of  the  New  Confederate  States  of  America  and 
presented  it  to  him,  with  a  speech.  Jimmy  Williams  felt  very 
proud  of  that  commission,  and  hid  it  under  a  loose  brick  in  his 
fireplace  chimney,  where  it  would  be  safe. 

Well,  then  it  came  to  the  plans,  and  when  Jimmy  Williams 
first  heard  about  them,  he  felt  a  little  surprised.  There  were  maps 
spread  all  over  the  big  desk  in  the  dim  room  now,  and  Colonel 
Cappalow  moved  pins  and  showed  Jimmy  strategy.  And  that 
"was  very  exciting,  and  like  a  game.  But  first  of  all,  they'd  have 
to  give  a  signal  and  strike  a  blow.  You  had  to  do  that  first,  and 
then  the  country  would  rise.  Well,  Jimmy  Williams  could  see 
the  reason  in  that. 

They  were  going  into  Shady  and  capture  the  post  office  first, 
and  then  the  railroad  station  and,  after  that,  they'd  dynamite  the 
railroad  bridge  to  stop  the  trains,  and  Colonel  Cappalow  would 
read  a  proclamation  from  the  steps  of  the  courthouse.  The  only 
part  Jimmy  Williams  didn't  like  about  it  was  killing  the  post- 
master and  the  station  agent,  in  case  they  resisted.  Jimmy  Wil- 
liams felt  pretty  sure  they  would  resist,  particularly  the  station 
agent,  who  was  a  mean  customer.  And,  somehow,  killing  peo- 
ple you  knew  wasn't  quite  like  killing  Yankees  and  Republicans. 
The  thought  of  it  shook  something  in  Jimmy's  mind  and  made 
it  waver.  But  after  that  they'd  march  on  Washington,  and  every- 
thing would  be  all  right. 

All  the  same,  he'd  sworn  his  oath  and  he  was  a  commissioned 
officer  in  the  army  of  the  New  Confederate  States.  So,  when 
Colonel  Cappalow  gave  him  the  pistol  that  morning,  with  the 
bullets  and  the  powder,  and  explained  how  he  was  to  keep  watch 
at  the  door  of  the  post  office  and  shoot  to  kill  if  he  had  to, 

The  Die-Hard 

Jimmy  said,  "I  shall  execute  the  order,  sir,"  the  way  he'd  been 
taught.  After  that,  they'd  go  for  the  station  agent  and  he'd  have 
a  chance  for  a  lot  more  shooting.  And  it  was  all  going  to  be  for 
noon  the  next  day. 

Somehow,  Jimmy  Williams  couldn't  quite  believe  it  was  going 
to  be  for  noon  the  next  day,  even  when  he  was  loading  the  pistol 
in  the  woodshed  of  the  Williams  house,  late  that  afternoon.  And 
yet  he  saw,  with  a  kind  of  horrible  distinctness,  that  it  was  going 
to  be.  It  might  sound  crazy  to  some,  but  not  to  him— Colonel 
Cappalow  was  a  sure  shot;  he'd  seen  him  shoot  at  the  mark.  He 
could  see  him  shooting,  now,  and  he  wondered  if  a  bullet  went 
"whang"  when  it  hit  a  man.  And,  just  as  he  was  fumbling  with 
the  bullets,  the  woodshed  door  opened  suddenly  and  there  was 
his  father. 

Well,  naturally,  Jimmy  dropped  the  pistol  and  jumped.  The 
pistol  didn't  explode,  for  he'd  forgotten  it  needed  a  cap.  But  with 
that  moment  something  seemed  to  break  inside  Jimmy  Williams. 
For  it  was  the  first  time  he'd  really  been  afraid  and  ashamed  in 
front  of  his  father,  and  now  he  was  ashamed  and  afraid.  And 
then  it  was  like  waking  up  out  of  an  illness,  for  his  father  saw 
his  white  face  and  said,  "What's  the  matter,  son?"  and  the  words 
began  to  come  out  of  his  mouth. 

"Take  it  easy,  son,"  said  his  father,  but  Jimmy  couldn't  take 
it  easy.  He  told  all  about  Otranto  and  Old  Man  Cappalow  and 
hating  the  Yankees  and  killing  the  postmaster,  all  jumbled  up  and 
higgledy-piggledy.  But  Doctor  Williams  made  sense  of  it.  At  first 
he  smiled  a  little  as  he  listened,  but  after  a  while  he  stopped  smil- 
ing, and  there  was  anger  in  his  face.  And  when  Jimmy  was  quite 
through,  "Well,  son,"  he  said,  "I  reckon  we've  let  you  run  wild. 
But  I  never  thought .  .  ."  He  asked  Jimmy  a  few  quick  questions, 
mostly  about  the  dynamite,  and  he  seemed  relieved  when  Jimmy 
told  him  they  were  going  to  get  it  from  the  men  who  were 
blasting  for  the  new  spur  track. 

"And  now,  son,"  he  said,  "when  did  you  say  this  massacre  was 
going  to  start?" 

"Twelve  o'clock  at  the  post  office,"  said  Jimmy.  "But  we 
weren't  going  to  massacre.  It  was  just  the  folks  that  resisted—" 

Doctor  Williams  made  a  sound  in  his  throat.  "Well,"  he  said, 
"you  and  I  are  going  to  take  a  ride  in  the  country,  Jimmy.  No, 
we  won't  tell  your  mother,  I  think." 


Stephen  Vwccni  Benet 

It  was  the  last  time  Jimmy  Williams  went  out  to  Old  Man 
Cappalow's,  and  he  remembered  that.  His  father  didn't  say  a 
word  all  the  way,  but  once  he  felt  in  his  back  pocket  for  some- 
thing he'd  taken  out  of  the  drawer  of  his  desk,  and  Jimmy  re- 
membered that  too. 

When  they  drove  up  in  front  of  the  house,  his  father  gave 
the  reins  to  Jimmy.  "Stay  in  the  buggy,  Jimmy,"  he  said.  "I'll 
settle  this. 

Then  he  got  out  of  the  buggy,  a  little  awkwardly,  for  he  was 
a  heavy  man,  and  Jimmy  heard  his  feet  scrunch  on  the  gravel. 
Jimmy  knew  again,  as  he  saw  him  go  up  the  steps,  that  he 
wouldn't  have  fitted  in  Otranto,  and  somehow  he  was  glad. 

The  Negro,  Sam,  opened  the  door. 

"Tell  Colonel  Cappalow  Doctor  Williams  wishes  to  speak 
with  him,"  said  Jimmy's  father,  and  Jimmy  could  see  that  his 
father's  neck  was  red. 

"Colonel  Cappalow  not  receivin',"  said  Sam,  in  his  light  sweet 
voice,  but  Jimmy's  father  spoke  again. 

"Tell  Colonel  Cappalow,"  he  said.  He  didn't  raise  his  voice, 
but  there  was  something  in  it  that  Jimmy  had  never  heard  in 
that  voice  before.  Sam  looked  for  a  moment  and  went  inside  the 

Then  Colonel  Cappalow  came  to  the  door  himself.  There  was 
red  from  the  evening  sun  on  his  white  suit  and  his  white  hair, 
and  he  looked  tall  and  proud,  He  looked  first  at  Jimmy's  father 
and  then  at  Jimmy.  And  his  voice  said,  quite  coldly,  and  reason- 
ably and  clearly,  "Traitor!  All  traitors!" 

"You'll  oblige  me  by  leaving  the  boy  out  of  it,"  said  Jimmy's 
father  heavily.  "This  is  1897,  sir,  not  1860,"  and  for  a  moment 
there  was  something  light  and  heady  and  dangerous  in  the  air 
between  them.  Jimmy  knew  what  his  father  had  in  his  pocket 
then,  and  he  sat  stiff  in  the  buggy  and  prayed  for  time  to  change 
and  things  to  go  away. 

Then  Colonel  Cappalow  put  his  hand  to  his  forehead.  "I  beg 
your  pardon,  sir,"  he  said,  in  an  altered  voice.  "You  mentioned 
a  date?" 

"I  said  it  was  1897,"  said  Doctor  Williams,  standing  square 
and  stocky,  "I  said  Marse  Robert's  dead— God  bless  him!— and 
Jefferson  Davis  too.  And  before  he  died,  Marse  Robert  said  we 
ought  to  be  at  peace.  The  ladies  can  keep  up  the  war  as  long  as 


The  Die-Hard 

they  see  fit— that's  their  privilege.  But  men  ought  to  act  like  men/* 
He  stared  for  a  moment  at  the  high-chinned,  sculptural  face. 
"Why,  damn  your  soul!"  he  said,  and  it  was  less  an  oath  than 
a  prayer.  "I  was  with  the  Ninth  Georgia;  I  went  through  three 
campaigns.  We  fought  till  the  day  of  Appomattox  and  it  was 
we-uns'  fight."  Something  rough  and  from  the  past  had  slipped 
back  into  his*  speech— something,  too,  that  Jimmy  Williams  had 
never  heard  in  it  before.  "We  didn't  own  niggers  or  plantations— 
the  men  I  fought  with.  But  when  it  was  over,  we  reckoned  it 
was  over  and  we'd  build  up  the  land.  Well,  we've  had  a  hard  time 
to  do  it,  but  we're  hoeing  corn.  We've  got  something  better  to 
do  than  fill  up  a  boy  with  a  lot  of  magnolious  notions  and  aim 
to  shoot  up  a  postmaster  because  there's  a  Republican  President. 
My  God,"  he  said,  and  again  it  was  less  an  oath  than  a  prayer, 
"it  was  bad  enough  getting  licked  when  you  thought  you  couldn't 
be—but  when  I  look  at  you— well,  hate  stinks  when  it's  kept  too 
long  in  the  barrel,  no  matter  how  you  dress  it  up  and  talk  fine 
about  it.  I'm  warning  you.  You  keep  your  hands  off  my  boy. 
Now,  that's  enough." 

"Traitors,"  said  the  old  man  vaguely,  "all  traitors."  Then  a 
change  came  over  his  face  and  he  stumbled  forward  as  if  he  had 
stumbled  over  a  stone.  The  Negro  and  the  white  man  both  sprang 
to  him,  but  it  was  the  Negro  who  caught  him  and  lowered  him 
to  the  ground.  Then  Jimmy  Williams  heard  his  father  calling 
for  his  black  bag,  and  his  limbs  were  able  to  move  again. 

Doctor  Williams  came  out  of  the  bedroom,  drying  his  hands 
on  a  towel.  His  eyes  fell  upon  Jimmy  Williams,  crouched  in 
front  of  the  chessboard. 

"He's  all  right,  son,"  he  said.  "At  least— he's  not  all  right.  But 
he  wasn't  in  pain." 

Jimmy  Williams  shivered  a  little.  "I  heard  him  talking,"  he 
said  difficultly.  "I  heard  him  calling  people  things." 

"Yes,"  said  his  father.  "Well,  you  mustn't  think  too  much  of 
that.  You  see,  a  man—"  He  stopped  and  began  again,  "Well,  I've 
no  doubt  he  was  considerable  of  a  man  once.  Only— well,  there's 
a  Frenchman  calls  it  a  fixed  idea.  You  let  it  get  a  hold  of  you  .  .  . 
and  the  way  he  was  brought  up.  He  got  it  in  his  head,  you  see 
—he  couldn't  stand  it  that  he  might  have  been  wrong  about  any- 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

thing.  And  the  hate— well,  it's  not  for  a  man.  Not  when  it's  like 
that.  Now,  where's  that  Nigra?" 

Jimmy  Williams  shivered  again;  he  did  not  want  Sam  back 
in  the  room.  But  when  Sam  came,  he  heard  the  Negro  answer, 

"H'm,"  said  Doctor  Williams.  "Twice  before.  He  should  have 
had  medical  attention." 

"Marse  John  don't  believe  in  doctors,"  said  the  low,  sweet 

"He  wouldn't,"  said  Doctor  Williams  briefly.  "Well,  I'll  take 
the  boy  home  now.  But  I'll  have  to  come  back.  I'm  coroner  for 
this  county.  You  understand  about  that?" 

"Yes,  sir,"  said  the  low,  sweet  voice,  "I  understand  about  that." 
Then  the  Negro  looked  at  the  doctor.  "Marse  Williams,"  he  said, 
"I  wouldn't  have  let  him  do  it.  He  thought  he  was  bound  to.  But 
I  wouldn't  have  let  him  do  it." 

"Well,"  said  the  doctor.  He  thought,  and  again  said,  "Well." 
Then  he  said,  "Are  there  any  relatives?" 

"I  take  him  back  to  Otranto,"  said  the  Negro.  "It  belongs  to 
another  gentleman  now,  but  Marse  John  got  a  right  to  lie  there. 
That's  Verginny  law,  he  told  me." 

"So  it  is,"  said  the  doctor.  "I'd  forgotten  that." 

"He  don't  want  no  relatives,"  said  the  Negro.  "He  got  nephews 
and  nieces  and  all  sorts  of  kin.  But  they  went  against  him  and 
he  cut  them  right  out  of  his  mind.  He  don't  want  no  relatives." 
He  paused.  "He  cut  everything  out  of  his  mind  but  the  old  days," 
he  said.  "He  start  doing  it  right  after  the  war.  That's  why  we 
come  here.  He  don't  want  no  part  nor  portion  of  the  present 
days.  And  they  send  him  money  from  Verginny,  but  he  only 
spend  it  the  one  way— except  when  we  buy  this  place."  He 
smiled  as  if  at  a  secret. 

"But  how?"  said  the  doctor,  staring  at  furniture  and  pictures. 

"Jus'  one  muleload  from  Otranto,"  said  the  Negro,  softly. 
"And  I'd  like  to  see  anybody  cross  Marse  John  in  the  old  days." 
He  coughed.  'They's  just  one  thing,  Marse  Williams,"  he  said, 
in  his  suave  voice.  "I  ain't  skeered  of  sittin'  up  with  Marse  John. 
I  always  been  with  him.  But  it's  the  money." 

"What  money?"  said  Doctor  Williams.  "Well,  that  will  go 
through  the  courts—" 

"No,  sir,"  said  the  Negro  patiently.  "I  mean  Marse  John's  spe- 


The  Die  Hard 

cial  money  that  he  spend  the  other  money  for.  He  got  close  to 
a  millyum  dollars  in  that  blind  closet  under  the  stairs.  And  no- 
body dare  come  for  it,  as  long  as  he's  strong  and  spry.  But  now 
I  don't  know.  I  don't  know." 

"Well,"  said  Doctor  Williams,  receiving  the  incredible  fact, 
"I  suppose  we'd  better  see." 

It  was  as  the  Negro  had  said— a  blind  closet  under  the  stairs, 
opened  by  an  elementary  sliding  catch. 

"There's  the  millyum  dollars,"  said  the  Negro  as  the  door 
swung  back.  He  held  the  cheap  glass  lamp  high— the  wide  roomy 
closet  was  piled  from  floor  to  ceiling  with  stacks  of  printed 

"H'm,"  said  Doctor  Williams.  "Yes,  I  thought  so.  ...  Have 
you  ever  seen  a  million  dollars,  son?" 

"No,  sir,"  said  Jimmy  Williams. 

"Well,  take  a  look,"  said  his  father.  He  slipped  a  note  from  a 
packet,  and  held  it  under  the  lamp. 

"It  says  'One  Thousand  Dollars,'  "  said  Jimmy  Williams.  "Oh!" 

"Yes,"  said  his  father  gently.  "And  it  also  says  'Confederate 
States  of  America'.  .  .  .  You  don't  need  to  worry,  Sam.  The 
money's  perfectly  safe.  Nobody  will  come  for  it.  Except,  maybe, 

"Yes,  Marse  Williams,"  said  Sam  unquestioningly,  accepting 
the  white  man's  word,  now  he  had  seen  and  judged  the  white 
man.  He  shut  the  closet. 

On  his  way  out,  the  doctor  paused  for  a  moment  and  looked 
at  the  Negro.  He  might  have  been  thinking  aloud— it  seemed  that 
way  to  Jimmy  Williams. 

"And  why  did  you  do  it?"  he  said.  "Well,  that's  something 
we'll  never  know.  And  what  are  you  going  to  do,  once  you've 
taken  him  back  to  Otranto?" 

"I  got  my  arrangements,  thank  you,  sir,"  said  the  Negro. 

"I  haven't  a  doubt  of  it,"  said  Jimmy  Williams'  father.  "But  I 
wish  I  knew  what  they  were." 

"I  got  my  arrangements,  gentlemen,"  the  Negro  repeated,  in 
his  low,  sweet  voice.  Then  they  left  him,  holding  the  lamp,  with 
his  tall  shadow  behind  him. 

"Maybe  I  oughtn't  to  have  left  him,"  said  Jimmy  Williams' 
father,  after  a  while,  as  the  buggy  jogged  along.  "He's  perfectly 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

capable  of  setting  fire  to  the  place  and  burning  it  up  as  a  sort  of 
a  funeral  pyre.  And  maybe  that  wouldn't  be  a  bad  thing,"  he 
added,  after  a  pause.  Then  he  said,  "Did  you  notice  the  chess- 
men? I  wonder  who  played  that  game.  It  was  stopped  in  the 
middle."  Then,  after  a  while,  he  said,  "I  remember  the  smell  of 
the  burning  woods  in  the  Wilderness.  And  I  remember  Recon- 
struction. But  Marse  Robert  was  right,  all  the  same.  You  can't 
go  back  to  the  past.  And  hate's  the  most  expensive  commodity  in 
the  world.  It's  never  been  anything  else,  and  I've  seen  a  lot  of  it. 
We've  got  to  realize  that— got  too  much  of  it,  still,  as  a  nation." 

But  Jimmy  Williams  was  hardly  listening.  He  was  thinking  it 
was  good  to  be  alone  with  his  father  in  a  buggy  at  night  and 
good  they  didn't  have  to  live  in  Otranto  after  all. 


You  don't  hear  so  much  about  the  Fool-Killer  these  days,  but 
when  Johnny  Pye  was  a  boy  there  was  a  good  deal  of  talk 
about  him.  Some  said  he  was  one  kind  of  person,  and  some  said 
another,  but  most  people  agreed  that  he  came  around  fairly  regu- 
lar. Or,  it  seemed  so  to  Johnny  Pye.  But  then,  Johnny  was  an 
adopted  child,  which  is,  maybe,  why  he  took  it  so  hard. 

The  miller  and  his  wife  had  offered  to  raise  him,  after  his  own 
folks  died,  and  that  was  a  good  deed  on  their  part.  But,  as  soon 
as  he  lost  his  baby  teeth  and  started  acting  the  way  most  boys 
act,  they  began  to  come  down  on  him  like  thunder,  which  wasn't 
so  good.  They  were  good  people,  according  to  their  lights,  but 
their  lights  were  terribly  strict  ones,  and  they  believed  that  the 
harder  you  were  on  a  youngster,  the  better  and  brighter  he  got. 
Well,  that  may  work  with  some  children,  but  it  didn't  with 
Johnny  Pye. 

He  was  sharp  enough  and  willing  enough— as  sharp  and  will- 
ing as  most  boys  in  Martinsville.  But,  somehow  or  other,  he  never 
seemed  to  be  able  to  do  the  right  things  or  say  the  right  words— 
at  least  when  he  was  home.  Treat  a  boy  like  a  fool  and  he'll  act 
like  a  fool,  I  say,  but  there's  some  folks  need  convincing.  The 
miller  and  his  wife  thought  the  way  to  smarten  Johnny  was 


Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

o  treat  him  like  a  fool,  and  finally  they  got  so  he  pretty  much 
>elieved  it  himself. 

And  that  was  hard  on  him,  for  he  had  a  boy's  imagination, 
md  maybe  a  little  more  than  most.  He  could  stand  the  beatings 
ind  he  did.  But  what  he  couldn't  stand  was  the  way  things  went 
it  the  mill.  I  don't  suppose  the  miller  intended  to  do  it.  But,  as 
ong  as  Johnny  Pye  could  remember,  whenever  he  heard  of  the 
leath  of  somebody  he  didn't  like,  he'd  say,  "Well,  the  Fool- 
Killer's  come  for  so-and-so,"  and  sort  of  smack  his  lips.  It  was, 
is  you  might  say,  a  family  joke,  but  the  miller  was  a  big  man 
>vith  a  big  red  face,  and  it  made  a  strong  impression  on  Johnny 
?ye.  Till,  finally,  he  got  a  picture  of  the  Fool-Killer,  himself.  He 
kvas  a  big  man,  too,  in  a  checked  shirt  and  corduroy  trousers, 
md  he  went  walking  the  ways  of  the  world,  with  a  hickory  club 
:hat  had  a  lump  of  lead  in  the  end  of  it.  I  don't  know  how  Johnny 
Pye  got  that  picture  so  clear,  but,  to  him,  it  was  just  as  plain 
is  the  face  of  any  human  being  in  Martinsville.  And,  now  and 
:hen,  just  to  test  it,  he'd  ask  a  grown-up  person,  kind  of  timidly, 
f  that  was  the  way  the  Fool-Killer  looked.  And,  of  course,  they'd 
generally  laugh  and  tell  him  it  was.  Then  Johnny  would  wake 
jp  at  night,  in  his  room  over  the  mill,  and  listen  for  the  Fool- 
Killer's  step  on  the  road  and  wonder  when  he  was  coming.  But 
[ie  was  brave  enough  not  to  tell  anybody  that. 

Finally,  though,  things  got  a  little  more  than  he  could  bear. 
He'd  done  some  boy's  trick  or  other— let  the  stones  grind  a  little 
fine,  maybe,  when  the  miller  wanted  the  meal  ground  coarse- 
just  carelessness,  you  know.  But  he'd  gotten  two  whippings  for 
it,  one  from  the  miller  and  one  from  his  wife,  and,  at  the  end  of 
it,  the  miller  had  said,  "Well,  Johnny  Pye,  the  Fool-Killer  ought 
to  be  along  for  you  most  any  day  now.  For  I  never  did  see  a  boy 
that  was  such  a  fool."  Johnny  looked  to  the  miller's  wife  to  see 
if  she  believed  it,  too,  but  she  just  shook  her  head  and  looked 
serious.  So  he  went  to  bed  that  night,  but  he  coulcWt  sleep,  for 
every  time  a  bough  rustled  or  the  mill  wheel  creaked,  it  seemed 
to  him  it  must  be  the  Fool-Killer.  And,  early  next  morning,  be- 
fore anybody  was  up,  he  packed  such  duds  as  he  had  in  a  ban- 
danna handkerchief  and  ran  away. 

He  didn't  really  expect  to  get  away  from  the  Fool-Killer  very 
long—as  far  as  he  knew,  the  Fool-Killer  got  you  wherever  you 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

went.  But  he  thought  he'd  give  him  a  run  for  his  money,  at  least. 
And  when  he  got  on  the  road,  it  was  a  bright  spring  morning, 
and  the  first  peace  and  quiet  he'd  had  in  some  time.  So  his  spirits 
rose,  and  he  chunked  a  stone  at  a  bullfrog  as  he  went  along,  just 
to  show  he  was  Johnny  Pye  and  still  doing  business. 

He  hadn't  gone  more  than  three  or  four  miles  out  of  Mar- 
tinsville,  when  he  heard  a  buggy  coming  up  the  road  behind  him. 
He  knew  the  Fool-Killer  didn't  need  a  buggy  to  catch  you,  so  he 
wasn't  afraid  of  it,  but  he  stepped  to  the  side  of  the  road  to  let 
it  pass.  But  it  stopped,  instead,  and  a  black-whiskered  man  with 
a  stovepipe  hat  looked  out  of  it. 

"Hello,  bub,"  he  said.  "Is  this  the  road  for  East  Liberty?" 

"My  name's  John  Pye  and  I'm  eleven  years  old,"  said  Johnny, 
polite  but  firm,  "and  you  take  the  next  left  fork  for  East  Lib- 
erty. They  say  it's  a  pretty  town— I've  never  been  there  myself." 
And  he  sighed  a  little,  because  he  thought  he'd  like  to  see  the 
world  before  the  Fool-Killer  caught  up  with  him. 

"H'm,"  said  the  man.  "Stranger  here,  too,  eh?  And  what  brings 
a  smart  boy  like  you  on  the  road  so  early  in  the  morning?" 

"Oh,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  quite  honestly,  "I'm  running  away 
from  the  Fool-Killer.  For  the  miller  says  I'm  a  fool  and  his  wife 
•says  I'm  a  fool  and  almost  everybody  in  Martinsville  says  I'm  a 
fool  except  little  Susie  Marsh.  And  the  miller  says  the  Fool- 
Killer's  after  me— so  I  thought  I'd  run  away  before  he  came." 

The  black-whiskered  man  sat  in  his  buggy  and  wheezed  for  a 
while.  When  he  got  his  breath  back,  "Well,  jump  in,  bub,"  he 
said.  "The  miller  may  say  you're  a  fool,  but  I  think  you're  a 
right  smart  boy  to  be  running  away  from  the  Fool-Killer  all  by 
yourself.  And  I  don't  hold  with  small-town  prejudices  and  I 
need  a  right  smart  boy,  so  I'll  give  you  a  lift  on  the  road." 

"But,  will  I  be  safe  from  the  Fool-Killer,  if  I'm  with  you?" 
said  Johnny.  "For,  otherwise,  it  don't  signify." 

"Safe?"  said  the  black-whiskered  man,  and  wheezed  again. 
"Oh,  you'll  be  safe  as  houses.  You  see,  I'm  a  herb  doctor— and 
some  folks  think,  a  little  in  the  Fool-Killer's  line  of  business,  my- 
self. And  I'll  teach  you  a  trade  worth  two  of  milling.  So  jump  in, 

"Sounds  \all  right  the  way  you  say  it,"  said  Johnny,  "but  my 
name's  John  Pye,"  and  he  jumped  into  the  buggy.  And  they  went 
rattling  along  toward  East  Liberty  with  the  herb  doctor  talking 


Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

and  cutting  jokes  till  Johnny  thought  he'd  never  met  a  pleasanter 
man.  About  half  a  mile  from  East  Liberty,  the  doctor  stopped  at 
a  spring. 

44 What  are  we  stopping  here  for?"  said  Johnny  Pye. 

"Wait  and  see,"  said  the  doctor,  and  gave  him  a  wink.  Then 
he  got  a  haircloth  trunk  full  of  empty  bottles  out  of  the  back  of 
the  buggy  and  made  Johnny  fill  them  with  spring  water  arid 
label  them.  Then  he  added  a  pinch  of  pink  powder  to  each  bot- 
tle and  shook  them  up  and  corked  them  and  stowed  them  away. 

"What's  that?"  said  Johnny,  very  interested. 

"That's  Old  Doctor  Waldo's  Unparalleled  Universal  Rem- 
edy," said  the  doctor,  reading  from  the  label. 

"Made  from  the  purest  snake  oil  and  secret  Indian  herb,  if 
cures  rheumatism,  blind  staggers,  headache,  malaria,  five  kinds  of 
fits,  and  spots  in  front  of  the  eyes.  It  will  also  remove  oil  or 
grease  stains,  clean  knives  and  silver,  polish  brass,  and  is  strongly 
recommended  as  a  general  tonic  and  blood  purifier.  Small  size, 
one  dollar—family  bottle,  two  dollars  and  a  half." 

"But  I  don't  see  any  snake  oil  in  it,"  said  Johnny,  puzzled,  "or 
any  secret  Indian  herbs." 

"That's  because  you're  not  a  fool,"  said  the  doctor,  with  an- 
other wink.  "The  Fool-Killer  wouldn't,  either.  But  most  folks 

And,  that  very  same  night,  Johnny  saw.  For  the  doctor  made 
his  pitch  in  East  Liberty  and  he  did  it  handsome.  He  took  a 
couple  of  flaring  oil  torches  and  stuck  them  on  the  sides  of  the 
buggy;  he  put  on  a  diamond  stickpin  and  did  card  tricks  and 
told  funny  stories  till  he  had  the  crowd  goggle-eyed.  As  for 
Johnny,  he  let  him  play  on  the  tambourine.  Then  he  started  talk- 
ing about  Doctor  Waldo's  Universal  Remedy,  and,  with  Johnny 
to  help  him,  the  bottles  went  like  hot  cakes.  Johnny  helped  the 
doctor  count  the  money  afterward,  and  it  was  a  pile. 

"Well,"  said  Johnny,  "I  never  saw  money  made  easier.  You've 
got  a  fine  trade,  Doctor." 

"It's  cleverness  does  it,"  said  the  doctor,  and  slapped  him  on 
the  back. 

"Now  a  fool's  content  to  stay  in  one  place  and  do  one  thing, 
but  the  Fool-Killer  never  caught  up  with  a  good  pitchman  yet.' 

"Well,  it's  certainly  lucky  I  met  up  with  you,"  said  Johnny, 
"and,  if  it's  cleverness  does  it,  I'll  learn  the  trade  or  bust." 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

So  he  stayed  with  the  doctor  quite  a  while— in  fact,  till  he  could 
make  up  the  remedy  and  do  the  card  tricks  almost  as  good  as 
the  doctor.  And  the  doctor  liked  Johnny,  for  Johnny  was  a  bid- 
dable boy.  But  one  night  they  came  into  a  town  where  things 
didn't  go  as  they  usually  did.  The  crowd  gathered  as  usual,  and 
the  doctor  did  his  tricks.  But,  all  the  time,  Johnny  could  see  a 
sharp-faced  little  fellow  going  through  the  crowd  and  whispering 
to  one  man  and  another.  Till,  at  last,  right  in  the  middle  of  the 
doctor's  spiel,  the  sharp-faced  fellow  gave  a  shout  of  "That's 
him  all  right!  I'd  know  them  whiskers  anywhere!"  and,  with 
that,  the  crowd  growled  once  and  began  to  tear  slats  out  of  the 
nearest  fence.  Well,  the  next  thing  Johnny  knew,  he  and  the 
doctor  were  being  ridden  out  of  town  on  a  rail,  with  the  doc- 
tor's long  coattails  flying  at  every  jounce. 

They  didn't  hurt  Johnny  particular— him  only  being  a  boy.  But 
they  warned  'em  both  never  to  show  their  faces  in  that  town 
again,  and  then  they  heaved  the  doctor  into  a  thistle  patch  and 
went  their  ways. 

"Owoo!"  said  the  doctor,  "ouch!"  as  Johnny  was  helping  him 
out  of  the  thistle  patch.  "Go  easy  with  those  thistles!  And  why 
didn't  you  give  me  the  office,  you  blame  little  fool?" 

"Office?"  said  Johnny.  "What  office?" 

"When  that  sharp-nosed  man  started  snooping  around,"  said 
the  doctor.  "I  thought  that  infernal  main  street  looked  familiar— 
I  was  through  there  two  years  ago,  selling  solid  gold  watches  for 
a  dollar  apiece." 

"But  the  works  to  a  solid  gold  watch  would  be  worth  more 
than  that,"  said  Johnny. 

"There  weren't  any  works,"  said  the  doctor,  with  a  groan, 
"but  there  was  a  nice  lively  beetle  inside  each  case  and  it  made 
the  prettiest  tick  you  ever  heard." 

"Well,  that  certainly  was  a  clever  idea,"  said  Johnny.  "I'd 
never  have  thought  of  that." 

"Clever?"  said  the  doctor.  "Ouch— it  was  ruination!  But  who'd 
have  thought  the  fools  would  bear  a  grudge  for  two  years?  And 
now  we've  lost  the  horse  and  buggy,  too— not  to  speak  of  the 
bottles  and  the  money.  Well,  there's  lots  more  tricks  to  be  played 
and  we'll  start  again." 

But,  though  he  liked  the  doctor,  Johnny  began  to  feel  dubious. 


Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

For  it  occurred  to  him  that,  if  all  the  doctor's  cleverness  got 
him  was  being  ridden  out  of  town  on  a  rail,  he  couldn't  be  so 
far  away  from  the  Fool-Killer  as  he  thought.  And,  sure  enough, 
as  he  was  going  to  sleep  that  night,  he  seemed  to  hear  the  Fool- 
Killer's  footsteps  coming  after  him— step,  step,  step.  He  pulled  his 
jacket  up  over  his  ears,  but  he  couldn't  shut  it  out.  So,  when  the 
doctor  had  got  in  the  way  of  starting  business  over  again,  he  and 
Johnny  parted  company.  The  doctor  didn't  bear  any  grudge; 
he  shook  hands  with  Johnny  and  told  him  to  remember  that  clev- 
erness was  power.  And  Johnny  went  on  with  his  running  away. 

He  got  to  a  town,  and  there  was  a  store  with  a  sign  in  the  win- 
dow, BOY  WANTED,  so  he  went  in.  There,  sure  enough,  was  the 
merchant,  sitting  at  his  desk,  and  a  fine,  important  man  he  looked, 
in  his  black  broadcloth  suit. 

Johnny  tried  to  tell  him  about  the  Fool-Killer,  but  the  mer- 
chant wasn't  interested  in  that.  He  just  looked  Johnny  over  and 
saw  that  he  looked  biddable  and  strong  for  his  age.  "But,  re- 
member, no  fooling  around,  boy!"  said  the  merchant  sternly, 
after  he'd  hired  him. 

"No  fooling  around?"  said  Johnny,  with  the  light  of  hope  in 
his  eyes. 

"No,"  said  the  merchant,  meaningly.  "We've  no  room  for  fools 
in  this  business,  I  can  tell  you!  You  work  hard,  and  you'll  rise. 
But,  if  you've  got  any  foolish  notions,  just  knock  them  on  the 
head  and  forget  them." 

Well,  Johnny  was  glad  enough  to  promise  that,  and  he  stayed 
with  the  merchant  a  year  and  a  half.  He  swept  out  the  store,  and 
he  put  the  shutters  up  and  took  them  down;  he  ran  errands  and 
wrapped  up  packages  and  learned  to  keep  busy  twelve  hours  a 
day.  And,  being  a  biddable  boy  and  an  honest  one,  he  rose,  just 
like  the  merchant  had  said.  The  merchant  raised  his  wages  and 
let  him  begin  to  wait  on  customers  and  learn  accounts.  And 
then,  one  night,  Johnny  woke  up  in  the  middle  of  the  night. 
And  it  seemed  to  him  he  heard,  far  away  but  getting  nearer, 
the  steps  of  the  Fool-Killer  after  him— tramping,  tramping. 

He  went  to  the  merchant  next  day  and  said,  "Sir,  I'm  sorry 
to  tell  you  this,  but  I'll  have  to  be  moving  on." 

"Well,  I'm  sorry  to  hear  that,  Johnny,"  said  the  merchant, 
"for  you've  been  a  good  boy.  And,  if  it's  a  question  of  salary—" 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"It  isn't  that,"  said  Johnny,  "but  tell  me  one  thing,  sir,  if  you 
don't  mind  my  asking.  Supposing  I  did  stay  with  you— where 
would  I  end?" 

The  merchant  smiled.  "That's  a  hard  question  to  answer,"  he 
said,  "and  I'm  not  much  given  to  compliments.  But  I  started, 
myself,  as  a  boy,  sweeping  but  the  store.  And  you're  a  bright 
youngster  with  lots  of  go-ahead.  I  don't  see  why,  if  you  stuck 
to  it,  you  shouldn't  make  the  same  kind  of  success  that  I  have." 

"And  what's  that?"  said  Johnny. 

The  merchant  began  to  look  irritated,  but  he  kept  his  smile. 

"Well,"  he  said,  "I'm  not  a  boastful  man,  but  I'll  tell  you  this. 
Ten  years  ago  I  was  the  richest  man  in  town.  Five  years  ago,  I 
was  the  richest  man  in  the  county.  And  five  years  from  now- 
well,  I  aim  to  be  the  richest  man  in  the  state." 

His  eyes  kind  of  glittered  as  he  said  it,  but  Johnny  was  looking 
at  his  face.  It  was  sallow-skinned  and  pouchy,  with  the  jaw  as 
hard  as  a  rock.  And  it  came  upon  Johnny  that  moment  that, 
though  he'd  known  the  merchant  a  year  and  a  half,  he'd  never 
really  seen  him  enjoy  himself  except  when  he  was  driving  a  bar- 

"Sorry,  sir,"  he  said,  "but,  if  it's  like  that,  I'll  certainly  have  to 
go.  Because,  you  see,  I'm  running  away  from  the  Fool-Killer,  and 
if  I  stayed  here  and  got  to  be  like  you,  he'd  certainly  catch  up 
with  me  in  no—" 

"Why,  you  impertinent  young  cub!"  roared  the  merchant, 
with  his  face  gone  red  all  of  a  sudden.  "Get  your  money  from 
the  cashier! "  and  Johnny  was  on  the  road  again  before  you  could 
say  "Jack  Robinson."  But,  this  time,  he  was  used  to  it,  and 
walked  off  whistling. 

Well,  after  that,  he  hired  out  to  quite  a  few  different  people, 
but  I  won't  go  into  all  of  his  adventures.  He  worked  for  an 
inventor  for  a  while,  and  they  split  up  because  Johnny  happened 
to  ask  him  what  would  be  the  good  of  his  patent,  self-winding, 
perpetual-motion  machine,  once  he  did  get  it  invented.  And, 
while  the  inventor  talked  big  about  improving  the  human  race 
and  the  beauties  of  science,  it  was  plain  he  didn't  know.  So  that 
night,  Johnny  heard  the  steps  of  the  Fool-Killer,  far  off  but  com- 
ing closer,  and,  next  morning,  he  went  away.  Then  he  stayed 
with  a  minister  for  a  while,  and  he  certainly  hated  to  leave  him, 
for  the  minister  was  a  good  man.  But  they  got  talking  one  evening 

Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

and,  as  it  chanced,  Johnny  asked  him  what  happened  to  people 
who  didn't  believe  in  his  particular  religion.  Well,  the  minister 
was  broad-minded,  but  there's  only  one  answer  to  that.  He  ad- 
mitted they  might  be  good  folks— he  even  admitted  they  mightn't 
exactly  go  to  hell— but  he  couldn't  let  them  into  heaven,  no,  not 
the  best  and  the  wisest  of  them,  for  there  were  the  specifications 
laid  down  by  creed  and  church,  and,  if  you  didn't  fulfill  them, 
you  didn't. 

So  Johnny  had  to  leave  him,  and,  after  that,  he  went  with  an 
old  drunken  fiddler  for  a  while.  He  wasn't  a  good  man,  I  guess, 
but  he  could  play  till  the  tears  ran  down  your  cheeks.  And, 
when  he  was  playing  his  best,  it  seemed  to  Johnny  that  the 
Fool-Killer  was  very  far  away.  For,  in  spite  of  his  faults  and 
his  weaknesses,  while  he  played,  there  was  might  in  the  man. 
But  he  died  drunk  in  a  ditch,  one  night,  with  Johnny  to  hold 
his  head,  and,  while  he  left  Johnny  his  fiddle,  it  didn't  do  Johnny 
much  good.  For,  while  Johnny  could  play  a  tune,  he  couldn't 
play  like  the  fiddler— it  wasn't  in  his  fingers. 

Then  it  chanced  that  Johnny  took  up  with  a  company  of  sol- 
diers. He  was  still  too  young  to  enlist,  but  they  made  a  kind  of 
pet  of  him,  and  everything  went  swimmingly  for  a  while.  For 
the  captain  was  the  bravest  man  Johnny  had  ever  seen,  and  he 
had  an  answer  for  everything,  out  of  regulations  and  the  Arti- 
cles of  War.  But  then  they  went  West  to  fight  Indians  and  the 
same  old  trouble  cropped  up  again.  For  one  night  the  captain 
said  to  him,  "Johnny,  we're  going  to  fight  the  enemy  tomorrow, 
but  you'll  stay  in  camp." 

"Oh,  I  don't  want  to  do  that,"  said  Johnny;  "I  want  to  be  in 
on  the  fighting." 

"It's  an  order,"  said  the  captain,  grimly.  Then  he  gave  Johnny 
certain  instructions  and  a  letter  to  take  to  his  wife. 

"For  the  colonel's  a  copper-plated  fool,"  he  said,  "and  we're 
walking  straight  into  an  ambush." 

"Why  don't  you  tell  him  that?"  said  Johnny. 

"I  have,"  said  the  captain,  "but  he's  the  colonel." 

"Colonel  or  no  colonel,"  said  Johnny,  "if  he's  a  fool,  some- 
body ought  to  stop  him." 

"You  can't  do  that,  in  an  army,"  said  the  captain.  "Orders  are 
orders."  But  it  turned  out  the  captain  was  wrong  about  it,  for, 
next  day,  before  they  could  get  moving,  the  Indians  attacked 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

and  got  badly  licked.  When  it  was  all  over,  "Well,  it  was  a  good 
fight,"  said  the  captain,  professionally.  "All  the  same,  if  they'd 
waited  and  laid  in  ambush,  they'd  have  had  our  hair.  But,  as  it 
was,  they  didn't  stand  a  chance." 

"But  why  didn't  they  lay  in  ambush?"  said  Johnny. 

"Well,"  said  the  captain,  "I  guess  they  had  their  orders  too. 
And  now,  how  would  you  like  to  be  a  soldier?" 

"Well,  it's  a  nice  outdoors  life,  but  I'd  like  to  think  it  over," 
said  Johnny.  For  he  knew  the  captain  was  brave  and  he  knew  the 
Indians  had  been  brave— you  couldn't  find  two  braver  sets  of 
people.  But,  all  the  same,  when  he  thought  the  whole  thing  over, 
he  seemed  to  hear  steps  in  the  sky.  So  he  soldiered  to  the  end  of 
the  campaign  and  then  he  left  the  army,  though  the  captain  told 
him  he  was  making  a  mistake. 

By  now,  of  course,  he  wasn't  a  boy  any  longer;  he  was  getting 
to  be  a  young  man  with  a  young  man's  thoughts  and  feelings. 
And,  half  the  time,  nowadays,  he  d  forget  about  the  Fool-Killer 
except  as  a  dream  he'd  had  when  he  was  a  boy.  He  could  even 
laugh  at  it  now  and  then,  and  think  what  a  fool  he'd  been  to 
believe  there  was  such  a  man. 

But,  all  the  same,  the  desire  in  him  wasn't  satisfied,  and  some- 
thing kept  driving  him  on.  He'd  have  called  it  ambitiousness, 
now,  but  it  came  to  the  same  thing.  And  with  every  new  trade 
he  tried,  sooner  or  later  would  come  the  dream— the  dream  of 
the  big  man  in  the  checked  shirt  and  corduroy  pants,  walking 
the  ways  of  the  world  with  his  hickory  stick  in  one  hand.  It  made 
him  angry  to  have  that  dream,  now,  but  it  had  a  singular  power 
over  him.  Till,  finally,  when  he  was  turned  twenty  or  so,  he  got 

"Fool-Killer  or  no  Fool-Killer,"  he  said  to  himself.  "I've  got 
to  ravel  this  matter  out.  For  there  must  be  some  one  thing  a  man 
could  tie  to,  and  be  sure  he  wasn't  a  fool.  I've  tried  cleverness 
and  money  and  half  a  dozen  other  things,  and  they  don't  seem  to 
be  the  answer.  So  now  I'll  try  book  learning  and  see  what  comes 
of  that." 

So  he  read  all  the  books  he  could  find,  and  whenever  he'd  seem 
to  hear  the  steps  of  the  Fool-Killer  coming  for  the  authors— and 
that  was  frequent—he'd  try  and  shut  his  ears.  But  some  books  said 
one  thing  was  best  and  some  another,  and  he  couldn't  rightly 

Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

"Well,"  he  said  to  himself,  when  he'd  read  and  read  till  his 
head  felt  as  stuffed  with  book  learning  as  a  sausage  with  meat, 
"it's  interesting,  but  it  isn't  exactly  contemporaneous.  So  I  think 
I'll  go  down  to  Washington  and  ask  the  wise  men  there.  For  it 
must  take  a  lot  of  wisdom  to  run  a  country  like  the  United 
States,  and  if  there's  people  who  can  answer  my  questions,  it's 
there  they  ought  to  be  found." 

So  he  packed  his  bag  and  off  to  Washington  he  went.  He  was 
modest  for  a  youngster,  and  he  didn't  intend  to  try  and  see  the 
President  right  away.  He  thought  probably  a  congressman  was 
about  his  size.  So  he  saw  a  congressman,  and  the  congressman 
told  him  the  thing  to  be  was  an  upstanding  young  American  and 
vote  the  Republican  ticket— which  sounded  all  right  to  Johnny 
Pye,  but  not  exactly  what  he  was  after. 

Then  he  went  to  a  senator,  and  the  senator  told  him  to  be  an 
upstanding  young  American  and  vote  the  Democratic  ticket— 
which  sounded  all  right,  too,  but  not  what  he  was  after,  either. 
And,  somehow,  though  both  men  had  been  impressive  and 
affable,  right  in  the  middle  of  their  speeches  he'd  seemed  to  hear 
steps— you  know. 

But  a  man  has  to  eat,  whatever  else  he  does,  and  Johnny  found 
he'd  bejter  buckle  down  and  get  himself  a  job.  It  happened  to  be 
with  the  first  congressman  he  struck,  for  that  one  came  from 
Martinsville,  which  is  why  Johnny  went  to  him  in  the  first  place. 
And,  in  a  little  while,  he  forgot  his  search  entirely  and  the  Fool- 
Killer,  too,  for  the  congressman's  niece  came  East  to  visit  him, 
and  she  was  the  Susie  Marsh  that  Johnny  had  sat  next  in  school. 
She'd  been  pretty  then,  but  she  was  prettier  now,  and  as  soon 
as  Johnny  Pye  saw  her,  his  heart  gave  a  jurtip  and  a  thump. 

"And  don't  think  we  don't  remember  you  in  Martinsville, 
Johnny  Pye,"  she  said,  when  her  uncle  had  explained  who  his 
new  clerk  was.  "Why,  the  whole  town'll  be  excited  when  I  write 
home.  We've  heard  all  about  your  killing  Indians  and  inventing 
perpetual  motion  and  traveling  around  the  country  with  a  famous 
doctor  and  making  a  fortune  in  dry  goods  and— oh,  it's  a  won- 
derful story!" 

"Well,"  said  Johnny,  and  coughed,  "some  of  that's  just  a  little 
bit  exaggerated.  But  it's  nice  of  you  to  be  interested.  So  they 
don't  think  I'm  a  fool  any  more,  in  Martinsville?" 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"I  never  thought  you  were  a  fool,"  said  Susie  with  a  little 
smile,  and  Johnny  felt  his  heart  give  another  bump. 

"And  I  always  knew  you  were  pretty,  but  never  how  pretty 
till  now,"  said  Johnny,  and  coughed  again.  "But,  speaking  of  old 
times,  how's  the  miller  and  his  wife?  For  I  did  leave  them  right 
sudden,  and  while  there  were  faults  on  both  sides,  I  must  have 
been  a  trial  to  them  too." 

"They've  gone  the  way  of  all  flesh,"  said  Susie  Marsh,  "and 
there's  a  new  miller  now.  But  he  isn't  very  well-liked,  to  tell  the 
truth,  and  he's  letting  the  mill  run  down." 

"That's  a  pity,"  said  Johnny,  "for  it  was  a  likely  mill."  Then 
he  began  to  ask  her  more  questions  and  she  began  to  remember 
things  too.  Well,  you  know  how  the  time  can  go  when  two 
youngsters  get  talking  like  that. 

Johnny  Pye  never  worked  so  hard  in  his  life  as  he  did  that  win- 
ter. And  it  wasn't  the  Fool-Killer  he  thought  about— it  was  Susie 
Marsh.  First  he  thought  she  loved  him  and  then  he  was  sure  she 
didn't,  and  then  he  was  betwixt  and  between,  and  all  perplexed 
and  confused.  But,  finally,  it  turned  out  all  right  and  he  had 
her  promise,  and  Johnny  Pye  knew  he  was  the  happiest  man 
in  the  world.  And  that  night,  he  waked  up  in  the  night  and 
heard  the  Fool-Killer  coming  after  him—step,  step,  step; 

He  didn't  sleep  much  after  that,  and  he  came  down  to  break- 
fast hollow-eyed.  But  his  uncle-to-be  didn't  notice  that— he  was 
rubbing  his  hands  and  smiling. 

"Put  on  your  best  necktie,  Johnny!"  he  said,  very  cheerful, 
"for  I've  got  an  appointment  with  the  President  today,  and,  just 
to  show  I  approve  of  my  niece's  fiance,  I'm  taking  you  along." 

"The  President!"  said  Johnny,  all  dumbfounded. 

"Yes,"  said  Congressman  Marsh,  "you  see,  there's  a  little  bill- 
well,  we  needn't  go  into  that.  But  slick  down  your  back  hair, 
Johnny—we'll  make  Martinsville  proud  of  us  this  day!" 

Then  a  weight  seemed  to  go  from  Johnny's  shoulders  and  a 
load  from  his  heart.  He  wrung  Mr.  Marsh's  hand. 

"Thank  you,  Uncle  Eben!"  he  said.  "I  can't  thank  you  enough." 
For,  at  last,  he  knew  he  was  going  to  look  upon  a  man  that  was 
bound  to  be  safe  from  the  Fool-Killer— and  it  seemed  to  him  if 
he  could  just  once  do  that,  all  his  troubles  and  searchings  would 
be  ended. 


Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

Well,  it  doesn't  signify  which  President  it  was— you  can  take  it 
from  me  that  he  was  President  and  a  fine-looking  man.  He'd  just 
been  elected,  too,  so  he  was  lively  as  a  trout,  and  the  saddle  galls 
he'd  get  from  Congress  hadn't  even  begun  to  show.  Anyhow, 
there  he  was,  and  Johnny  feasted  his  eyes  on  him.  For  if  there 
was  anybody  in  the  country  the  Fool-Killer  couldn't  bother, 
it  must  be  a  man  like  this. 

The  President  and  the  congressman  talked  politics  for  a  while, 
and  then  it  was  Johnny's  turn. 

"Well,  young  man,"  said  the  President,  affably,  "and  what  can 
I  do  for  you— for  you  look  to  me  like  a  fine,  upstanding  young 

The  congressman  cut  in  quick  before  Johnny  could  open  his 

"Just  a  word  of  advice,  Mr.  President,"  he  said.  "Just  a  word 
in  season.  For  my  young  friend's  led  an  adventurous  life,  but 
now  he's  going  to  marry  my  niece  and  settle  down.  And  what  he 
needs  most  of  all  is  a  word  of  ripe  wisdom  from  you." 

"Well,"  said  the  President,  looking  at  Johnny  rather  keenly, 
"if  that's  all  he  needs,  a  short  horse  is  soon  curried.  I  wish  most 
of  my  callers  wanted  as  little." 

But,  all  the  same,  he  drew  Johnny  out,  as  such  men  can,  and 
before  Johnny  knew  it,  he  was  telling  his  life  story. 

"Well,"  said  the  President,  at  the  end,  "you  certainly  have  been 
a  rolling  stone,  young  man.  But  there's  nothing  wrong  in  that. 
And,  for  one  of  your  varied  experience  there's  one  obvious 
career.  Politics!"  he  said,  and  slapped  his  fist  in  his  hand. 

"Well,"  said  Johnny,  scratching  his  head,  "of  course,  since  I've 
been  in  Washington,  I've  thought  of  that.  But  I  don't  know  that 
I'm  rightly  fitted." 

"You  can  write  a  speech,"  said  Congressman  Marsh,  quite 
thoughtful,  "for  you've  helped  me  with  mine.  You're  a  likeable 
fellow  too.  And  you  were  born  poor  and  worked  up— and  you've 
even  got  a  war  record— why,  hell!  Excuse  me,  Mr.  President!— 
he's  worth  five  hundred  votes  just  as  he  stands!" 

"I— I'm  more  than  honored  by  you  two  gentlemen,"  said 
Johnny,  abashed  and  flattered,  "but  supposing  I  did  go  into 
politics— where  would  I  end  up?" 

The  President  looked  sort  of  modest. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"The  Presidency  of  the  United  States,"  said  he,  "is  within  the 
legitimate  ambition  of  every  American  citizen.  Provided  he  can 
get  elected,  of  course." 

"Oh,"  said  Johnny,  feeling  dazzled,  "I  never  thought  of  that. 
Well,  that's  a  great  thing.  But  it  must  be  a  great  responsibility 

"It  is,"  said  the  President,  looking  just  like  his  pictures  on  the 
campaign  buttons. 

"Why,  it  must  be  an  awful  responsibility!"  said  Johnny.  "I 
can't  hardly  see  how  a  mortal  man  can  bear  it.  Tell  me,  Mr. 
President,"  he  said,  "may  I  ask  you  a  question?" 

"Certainly,"  said  the  President,  looking  prouder  and  more  re- 
sponsible and  more  and  more  like  his  picture  on  the  campaign 
buttons  every  minute. 

"Well,"  said  Johnny,  "it  sounds  like  a  fool  question,  but  it's 
this:  This  is  a  great  big  country  of  ours,  Mr.  President,  and  it's 
got  the  most  amazing  lot  of  different  people  in  it.  How  can  any 
President  satisfy  all  those  people  at  one  time?  Can  you  yourself, 
Mr.  President?" 

The  President  looked  a  bit  taken  aback  for  a  minute.  But  then 
he  gave  Johnny  Pye  a  statesman's  glance. 

"With  the  help  of  God,"  he  said,  solemnly,  "and  in  accordance 
with  the  principles  of  our  great  party,  I  intend  .  . ." 

But  Johnny  didn't  even  hear  the  end  of  the  sentence.  For, 
even  as  the  President  was  speaking,  he  heard  a  step  outside  in  the 
corridor  and  he  knew,  somehow,  it  wasn't  the  step  of  a  secretary 
or  a  guard.  He  was  glad  the  President  had  said  "with  the  help  of 
God"  for  that  sort  of  softened  the  step.  And  when  the  President 
finished,  Johnny  bowed. 

"Thank  you,  Mr.  President,"  he  said;  "that's  what  I  wanted 
to  know.  And  now  I'll  go  back  to  Martinsville,  I  guess." 

"Go  back  to  Martinsville?"  said  the  President,  surprised. 

"Yes,  sir,"  said  Johnny.  "For  I  don't  think  I'm  cut  out  for 

"And  is  that  all  you  have  to  say  to  the  President  of  the  United 
States?"  said  his  uncle-to-be,  in  a  fume. 

But  the  President  had  been  thinking,  meanwhile,  and  he  was 
a  bigger  man  than  the  congressman. 

"Wait  a  minute,  Congressman,"  he  said.  "This  young  man's 
honest,  at  least,  and  I  like  his  looks.  Moreover,  of  all  the  people 


Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

who've  come  to  see  me  in  the  last  six  months,  he's  the  only  one 
who  hasn't  wanted  something— except  the  White  House  cat,  and 
I  guess  she  wanted  something,  too,  because  she  meowed.  You 
don't  want  to  be  President,  young  man— and,  confidentially,  I 
don't  blame  you.  But  how  would  you  like  to  be  postmaster  at 

"Postmaster  at  Martinsville?"  said  Johnny.  "But—" 

"Oh,  it's  only  a  tenth-class  post  office,"  said  the  President,  "but, 
for  once  in  my  life,  I'll  do  something  because  I  want  to,  and  let 
Congress  yell  its  head  off.  Come— is  it  yes  or  no?" 

Johnny  thought  of  all  the  places  he'd  been  and  all  the  trades 
he'd  worked  at.  He  thought,  queerly  enough,  of  the  old  drunk 
fiddler  dead  in  the  ditch,  but  he  knew  he  couldn't  be  that.  Mostly, 
though,  he  thought  of  Martinsville  and  Susie  Marsh.  And,  though 
he'd  just  heard  the  Fool-Killer's  step,  he  defied  the  Fool-Killer. 

"Why,  it's  yes,  of  course,  Mr.  President,"  he  said,  "for  then 
I  can  marry  Susie." 

"That's  as  good  a  reason  as  you'll  find,"  said  the  President. 
"And  now,  I'll  just  write  a  note." 

Well,  he  was  as  good  as  his  word,  and  Johnny  and  his  Susie 
were  married  and  went  back  to  live  in  Martinsville.  And,  as 
soon  as  Johnny  learned  the  ways  of  postmastering,  he  found  it  as 
good  a  trade  as  most.  There  wasn't  much  mail  in  Martinsville,  but, 
in  between  whiles,  he  ran  the  mill,  and  that  was  a  good  trade  too. 
And  all  the  time,  he  knew,  at  the  back  of  his  mind,  that  he  hadn't 
quite  settled  accounts  with  the  Fool-Killer.  But  he  didn't  much 
care  about  that,  for  he  and  Susie  were  happy.  And  after  a  while 
they  had  a  child,  and  that  was  the  most  remarkable  experience 
that  had  ever  happened  to  any  young  couple,  though  the  doctor 
said  it  was  a  perfectly  normal  baby. 

One  evening,  when. his  son  was  about  a  year  old,  Johnny 
Pye  took  the  river  road,  going  home.  It  was  a  mite  longer  than 
the  hill  road,  but  it  was  the  cool  of  the  evening,  and  there's  times 
when  a  man  likes  to  walk  by  himself,  fond  as  he  may  be  of  his 
wife  and  family. 

He  was  thinking  of  the  way  things  had  turned  out  for  him, 
and  they  seemed  to  him  pretty  astonishing  and  singular,  as  they 
do  to  most  folks,  when  you  think  them  over.  In  fact,  he  was 
thinking  so  hard  that,  before  he  knew  it,  he'd  almost  stumbled 
over  an  old  scissors  grinder  who'd  set  up  his  grindstone  and  tools 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

by  the  side  of  the  road.  The  scissors  grinder  had  his  cart  with  him, 
but  he'd  turned  the  horse  out  to  graze— and  a  lank,  old,  white 
horse  it  was,  with  every  rib  showing.  And  he  was  very  busy, 
putting  an  edge  on  a  scythe. 

"Oh,  sorry,"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "I  didn't  know  anybody  was 
camping  here.  But  you  might  come  around  to  my  house  tomor- 
row—my wife's  got  some  knives  that  need  sharpening." 

Then  he  stopped,  for  the  old  man  gave  him  a  long,  keen  look. 

"Why,  it's  you,  Johnny  Pye,"  said  the  old  man.  "And  how  do 
you  do,  Johnny  Pye!  You've  been  a  long  time  coming— in  fact, 
now  and  then,  I  thought  I'd  have  to  fetch  you.  But  you're  here 
at  last." 

Johnny  Pye  was  a  grown  man  now,  but  he  began  to  tremble. 

"But  it  isn't  you!"  he  said,  wildly.  "I  mean  you're  not  him! 
Why,  I've  known  how  he  looks  all  my  life!  He's  a  big  man,  with 
a  checked  shirt,  and  he  carries  a  hickory  stick  with  a  lump  of 
lead  in  one  end." 

"Oh,  no,"  said  the  scissors  grinder,  quite  quiet.  "You  may  have 
thought  of  me  that  way,  but  that's  not  the  way  I  am."  And 
Johnny  Pye  heard  the  scythe  go  whet-whet-whet  on  the  stone. 
The  old  man  ran  some  water  on  it  and  looked  at  the  edge.  Then 
he  shook  his  head  as  if  the  edge  didn't  quite  satisfy  him.  "Well, 
Johnny,  are  you  ready?"  he  said,  after  a  while. 

"Ready?"  said  Johnny,  in  a  hoarse  voice.  "Of  course  I'm  not 

"That's  what  they  all  say,"  said  the  old  man,  nodding  his  head, 
and  the  scythe  went  whet- whet  on  the  stone. 

Johnny  wiped  his  brow  and  started  to  argue  it  out. 

"You  see,  if  you'd  found  me  earlier,"  he  said,  "or  later.  I  don't 
want  to  be  unreasonable,  but  I've  got  a  wife  and  a  child." 

"Most  has  wives  and  many  has  children,"  said  the  old  man, 
grimly,  and  the  scythe  went  whet-whet  on  the  stone  as  he  pushed 
the  treadle.  And  a  shower  of  sparks  flew,  very  clear  and  bright, 
for  the  night  had  begun  to  fall. 

"Oh,  stop  that  damn  racket  and  let  a  man  think  for  a  minute!" 
said  Johnny,  desperate.  "I  can't  go,  I  tell  you.  I  won't.  It  isn't 
time.  It's-" 

The  old  man  stopped  the  grindstone  and  pointed  with  the 
scythe  at  Johnny  Pye. 

"Tell  me  one  good  reason,"  he  said.  "There's  men  would  be 


Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

missed  in  the  world,  but  are  you  one  of  them?  A  clever  man 
might  be  missed,  but  are  you  a  clever  man?" 

"No,"  said  Johnny,  thinking  of  the  herb  doctor.  "I  had  a 
chance  to  be  clever,  but  I  gave  it  up." 

"One,"  said  the  old  man,  ticking  off  on  his  fingers.  "Well,  a 
rich  man  might  be  missed— by  some.  But  you  aren't  rich,  I  take 

"No,"  said  Johnny,  thinking  of  the  merchant,  "nor  wanted 
to  be." 

"Two,"  said  the  old  man.  "Cleverness— riches— they're  done. 
But  there's  still  martial  bravery  and  being  a  hero.  There  might 
be  an  argument  to  make,  if  you  were  one  of  those." 

Johnny  Pye  shuddered  a  little,  remembering  the  way  that 
battlefield  had  looked,  out  West,  when  the  Indians  were  dead  and 
the  fight  over. 

"No,"  he  said,  "I've  fought,  but  I'm  not  a  hero." 

"Well,  then,  there's  religion,"  said  the  old- man,  sort  of  patient, 
"and  science,  and— but  what's  the  use?  We  know  what  you  did 
with  those.  I  might  feel  a  trifle  of  compunction  if  I  had  to  deal 
with  a  President  of  the  United  States.  But—" 

"Oh,  you  know  well  enough  I  ain't  President,"  said  Johnny, 
with  a  groan.  "Can't  you  get  it  oVer  with  and  be  done?" 

"You're  not  putting  up  a  very  good  case,"  said  the  old  man, 
shaking  his  head.  "I'm  surprised  at  you,  Johnny.  Here  you  spend 
your  youth  running  away  from  being  a  fool.  And  yet,  what's 
the  first  thing  you  do,  when  you're  man  grown?  Why,  you 
marry  a  girl,  settle  down  in  your  home  town,  and  start  raising 
children  when  you  don't  know  how  they'll  turn  out.  You  might 
have  known  I'd  catch  up  with  you,  then— you  just  put  yourself 
in  my  way." 

"Fool  I  may  be,"  said  Johnny  Pye  in  his  agony,  "and  if  you 
take  it  like  that,  I  guess  we're  all  fools.  But  Susie's  my  wife,  and 
my  child's  my  child.  And,  as  for  work  in  the  world— well,  some- 
body has  to  be  postmaster,  or  folks  wouldn't  get  the  mail." 

"Would  it  matter  much  if  they  didn't?"  said  the  old  man, 
pointing  his  scythe. 

"Well,  no,  I  don't  suppose  it  would,  considering  what's  on 
the  post  cards,"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "But  while  it's  my  business  to 
sort  it,  I'll  sort  it  as  well  as  I  can." 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

The  old  man  whetted  his  scythe  so  hard  that  a  long  shower  of 
sparks  flew  out  on  the  grass. 

"Well,"  he  said,  "I've  got  my  job,  too,  and  I  do  it  likewise, 
But  I'll  tell  you  what  I'll  do.  You're  coming  my  way,  no  doubt 
of  it,  but,  looking  you  over,  you  don't  look  quite  ripe  yet.  So 
I'll  let  you  off  for  a  while.  For  that  matter,"  said  he,  "if  you'll 
answer  one  question  of  mine— how  a  man  can  be  a  human  being 
and  not  be  a  fool—I'll  let  you  off  permanent.  It'll  be  the  first 
time  in  history,"  he  said,  "but  you've  got  to  do  something  on 
your  own  hook,  once  in  a  while.  And  now  you  can  walk  along, 
Johnny  Pye." 

With  that  he  grounded  the  scythe  till  the  sparks  flew  out  like 
the  tail  of  a  comet  and  Johnny  Pye  walked  along.  The  air  of  the 
meadow  had  never  seemed  so  sweet  to  him  before. 

All  the  same,  even  with  his  relief,  he  didn't  quite  forget,  and 
sometimes  Susie  had  to  tell  the  children  not  to  disturb  father 
because  he  was  thinking.  But  time  went  ahead,  as  it  does,  and 
pretty  soon  Johnny  Pye  found  he  was  forty.  He'd  never  ex- 
pected to  be  forty,  when  he  was  young,  and  it  kind  of  surprised 
him.  But  there  it  was,  though  he  couldn't  say  he  felt  much  dif- 
ferent, except  now  and  then  when  he  stooped  over.  And  he  was 
a  solid  citizen  of  the  town,  well-liked  and  well-respected,  with  a 
growing  family  and  a  stake  in  the  community,  and  when  he 
thought  those  things  over,  they  kind  of  surprised  him  too.  But, 
pretty  soon,  it  was  as  if  things  had  always  been  that  way. 

It  was  after  his  eldest  son  had  been  drowned  out  fishing  that 
Johnny  Pye  met  the  scissors  grinder  again.  But  this  time  he  was 
bitter  and  distracted,  and,  if  he  could  have  got  to  the  old  man, 
he'd  have  done  him  a  mortal  harm.  But,  somehow  or  other,  when 
he  tried  to  come  to  grips  with  him,  it  was  like  reaching  for  air 
and  mist.  He  could  see  the  sparks  fly  from  the  ground  scythe, 
but  he  couldn't  even  touch  the  wheel. 

"You  coward!"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "Stand  up  and  fight  like  a 
man!"  But  the  old  man  just  nodded  his  head  and  the  wheel  kept 
grinding  and  grinding. 

"Why  couldn't  you  have  taken  me?"  said  Johnny  Pye,  as  if 
those  words  had  never  been  said  before.  "What's  the  sense  in  all 
this?  Why  can't  you  take  me  now?" 

Then  he  tried  to  wrench  the  scythe  from  the  old  man's  hands, 

1 06 

Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

but  he  couldn't  touch  it.  And  then  he  fell  down  and  lay  on  th* 
grass  for  a  while. 

"Time  passes,"  said  the  old  man,  nodding  his  head.  "Tim* 

"It  will  never  cure  the  grief  I  have  for  my  son,"  said  Johnny  Pye. 

"It  will  not,"  said  the  old  man,  nodding  his  head.  "But  time 
passes.  Would  you  leave  your  wife  a  widow  and  your  other 
children  fatherless  for  the  sake  of  your  grief?" 

"No,  God  help  me!"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "That  wouldn't  b« 
right  for  a  man." 

"Then  go  home  to  your  house,  Johnny  Pye,"  said  the  old  man. 
And  Johnny  Pye  went,  but  there  were  lines  in  his  face  that 
hadn't  been  there  before. 

And  time  passed,  like  the  flow  of  the  river,  and  Johnny  Pye's 
children  married  and  had  houses  and  children  of  their  own.  And 
Susie's  hair  grew  white,  and  her  back  grew  bent,  and  when 
Johnny  Pye  and  his  children  followed  her  to  her  grave,  folks  said 
she'd  died  in  the  fullness  of  years,  but  that  was  hard  for  Johnny 
Pye  to  believe.  Only  folks  didn't  talk  as  plain  as  they  used  to, 
and  the  sun  didn't  heat  as  much,  and  sometimes,  before  dinner, 
he'd  go  to  sleep  in  his  chair. 

And  once,  after  Susie  had  died,  the  President  of  those  days 
came  through  Martinsville  and  Johnny  Pye  shook  hands  with 
him  and  there  was  a  piece  in  the  paper  about  his  shaking  hands 
with  two  Presidents,  fifty  years  apart.  Johnny  Pye  cut  out  the 
clipping  and  kept  it  in  his  pocketbook.  He  liked  this  President  all 
right,  but,  as  he  told  people,  he  wasn't  a  patch  on  the  other  one 
fifty  years  ago.  Well,  you  couldn't  expect  it— you  didn't  have 
Presidents  these  days,  not  to  call  them  Presidents.  All  the  same, 
he  took  a  lot  of  satisfaction  in  the  clipping. 

He  didn't  get  down  to  the  river  road  much  any  more— it  wasn't 
too  long  a  walk,  of  course,  but  he  just  didn't  often  feel  like  it. 
But,  one  day,  he  slipped  away  from  the  granddaughter  that  was 
taking  care  of  him,  and  went.  It  was  kind  of  a  steep  road,  really 
—he  didn't  remember  its  being  so  steep. 

"Well,"  said  the  scissors  grinder,  "and  good  afternoon  to  you, 
Johnny  Pye." 

"You'll  have  to  talk  a  little  louder,"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "My 
hearing's  perfect,  but  folks  don't  speak  as  plain  as  they  used  to. 
Stranger  in  town?" 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Oh,  so  that's  the  way  it  is,"  said  the  scissors  grinder. 

"Yes,  that's  the  way  it  is,"  said  Johnny  Pye.  He  knew  he  ought 
to  be  afraid  of  this  fellow,  now  he'd  put  on  his  spectacles  and  got 
a  good  look  at  him,  but  for  the  life  of  him,  he  couldn't  remember 

"I  know  just  who  you  are,"  he  said,  a  little  fretfully.  "Never 
forgot  a  face  in  my  life,  and  your  name's  right  on  the  tip  of  my 

"Oh,  don't  bother  about  names,"  said  the  scissors  grinder. 
"We're  old  acquaintances.  And  I  asked  you  a  question,  years  ago 
—do  you  remember  that?" 

"Yes,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  "I  remember."  Then  he  began  to 
laugh—a  high,  old  man's  laugh.  "And  of  all  the  fool  questions  I 
ever  was  asked,"  he  said,  "that  certainly  took  the  cake." 

"Oh?"  said  the  scissors  grinder. 

"Uh-huh,"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "For  you  asked  me  how  a  man 
could  be  a  human  being  and  yet  not  be  a  fool.  And  the  answer 
is—when  tie's  dead  and  gone  and  buried.  Any  fool  would  know 

"That  so?"  said  the  scissors  grinder. 

"Of  course,"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "I  ought  to  know.  I'll  be  ninety- 
two  next  November,  and  I've  shook  hands  with  two  Presidents. 
The  first  President  I  shook—" 

"I'll  be  interested  to  hear  about  that,"  said  the  scissors  grinder, 
"but  we've  got  a  little  business,  first.  For,  if  all  human  beings  are 
fools,  how  does  the  world  get  ahead?" 

"Oh,  there's  lots  of  other  things,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  kind  of 
impatient.  "There's  the  brave  and  the  wise  and  the  clever— and 
they're  apt  to  roll  it  ahead  as  much  as  an  inch.  But  it's  all  mixed 
in  together.  For,  Lord,  it's  only  some  fool  kind  of  creature  that 
would  have  crawled  out  of  the  sea  to  dry  land  in  the  first  place 
—or  got  dropped  from  the  Garden  of  Eden,  if  you  like  it  better 
that  way.  You  can't  depend  on  the  kind  of  folks  people  think 
they  are— you've  got  to  go  by  what  they  do.  And  I  wouldn't 
give  much  for  a  man  that  some  folks  hadn't  thought  was  a  fool, 
in  his  time." 

"Well,"  said  the  scissors  grinder,  "you've  answered  my  ques- 
tion—at least  as  well  as  you  could,  which  is  all  you  can  expect  of 
a  man.  So  I'll  keep  my  part  of  the  bargain." 


Johnny  Pye  and  the  Fool-Killer 

"And  what  was  that?"  said  Johnny.  "For,  while  it's  all  straight 
in  my  head,  I  don't  quite  recollect  the  details." 

"Why,"  said  the  scissors  grinder,  rather  testy,  "I'm  to  let  you 
go,  you  old  fool!  You'll  never  see  me  again  till  the  Last  Judg- 
ment. There'll  be  trouble  in  the  office  about  it,"  said  he,  "but 
you've  got  to  do  what  you  like,  once  in  a  while." 

"Phew!"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "That  needs  thinking  over!"  And 
he  scratched  his  head. 

"Why?"  said  the  scissors  grinder,  a  bit  affronted.  "It  ain't 
often  I  offer  a  man  eternal  life." 

"Well,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  "I  take  it  very  kind,  but,  you  see,  it's 
this  way."  He  thought  for  a  moment.  "No,"  he  said,  "you 
wouldn't  understand.  You  can't  have  touched  seventy  yet,  by 
your  looks,  and  no  young  man  would." 

"Try  me,"  said  the  scissors  grinder. 

"Well,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  "it's  this  way,"  and  he  scratched  his 
head  again.  "I'm  not  saying— if  you'd  made  the  offer  forty  years 
ago,  or  even  twenty.  But,  well,  now,  let's  just  take  one  detail. 
Let's  say  'teeth.' " 

"Well,  of  course,"  said  the  scissors  grinder,  "naturally— I  mean 
you  could  hardly  expect  me  to  do  anything  about  that." 

"I  thought  so,"  said  Johnny  Pye.  "Well,  you  see,  these  are 
good,  bought  teeth,  but  I'm  sort  of  tired  of  hearing  them  click. 
And  spectacles,  I  suppose,  the  same?" 

"I'm  afraid  so,"  said  the  scissors  grinder.  "I  can't  interfere  with 
time,  you  know— that's  not  my  department.  And,  frankly,  you 
couldn't  expect,  at  a  hundred  and  eighty,  let's  say,  to  be  quite 
the  man  you  was  at  ninety.  But  still,  you'd  be  a  wonder!" 

"Maybe  so,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  "but,  you  see— well,  the  truth 
is,  I'm  an  old  man  now.  You  wouldn't  think  it  to  look  at  me, 
but  it's  so.  And  my  friends— wrell,  they're  gone— and  Susie  and  the 
boy— and  somehow  you  don't  get  as  close  to  the  younger  people, 
except  the  children.  And  to  keep  on  just  going  and  going  till 
Judgment  Day,  with  nobody  around  to  talk  to  that  had,  real 
horse  sense— well,  no,  sir,  it's  a  handsome  offer  but  I  just  don't 
feel  up  to  accepting  it.  It  may  not  be  patriotic  of  me,  and  I  feel 
sorry  for  Martinsville.  It'd  do  wonders  for  the  climate  and  the 
chamber  of  commerce  to  have  a  leading  citizen  live  till  Judgment 
Day.  But  a  man's  got  to  do  as  he  likes,  at  least  once  in  his  life." 
He  stopped  and  looked  at  the  scissors  grinder.  "I'll  admit,  I'd  kind 


Stephen  Vincent  Ken6t 

of  like  to  beat  out  Ike  Leavis,"  he  said.  "To  hear  him  talk,  you'd 
think  nobody  had  ever  pushed  ninety  before.  But  I  suppose—" 

"I'm  afraid  we  can't  issue  a  limited  policy,"  said  the  scissors 

"Well,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  "I  just  thought  of  it.  And  Ike's  all 
right."  He  waited  a  moment.  "Tell  me,"  he  said,  in  a  low  voice. 
"Well,  you  know  what  I  mean.  Afterwards.  I  mean,  if  you're 
likely  to  see"— he  coughed— "your  friends  again.  I  mean,  if  it's  so 
—like  some  folks  believe."  ' 

"I  can't  tell  you  that,"  said  the  scissors  grinder.  "I  only  go  so 

"Well,  there's  no  harm  in  asking,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  rather 
humbly.  He  peered  into  the  darkness;  a  last  shower  of  sparks 
flew  from  the  scythe,  then  the  whir  of  the  wheel  stopped. 

"H'm,"  said  Johnny  Pye,  testing  the  edge.  "That's  a  well- 
ground  scythe.  But  they  used  to  grind  'em  better  in  the  old  days." 
He  listened  and  looked,  for  a  moment,  anxiously.  "Oh,  Lordy!" 
he  said,  "there's  Helen  coming  to  look  for  me.  She'll  take  me  back 
to  the  house." 

"Not  this  time,"  said  the  scissors  grinder.  "Yes,  there  isn't  bad 
steel  in  that  scythe.  Well,  let's  go,  Johnny  Pye." 


Spanish  Bayonet 


THEY  were  dancing  in  the  streets  of  Port  Mahon. 
The  time  was  shortly  after  Easter  in  the  year  of  our 
Lord,  1769.  Christ  had  died  and  risen  again  in  the  Cathedral,  with 
flowers  and  candleflame  and  the  songs  of  Easter  Eve,  when  stroll- 
ers pass  through  the  narrow,  rocky  streets,  singing  the  Fromajar- 
dis— the  sorrows  of  Mary— and  receive  through  opened  lattice  and 
shutter,  small  sanctified  gifts  of  sweetmeats  and  pastry  from  hands 
blurred  by  the  dusk.  This  year  the  sweetmeats  nad  been  few  and 
poor,  for  the  scanty  crops  of  Minorca  had  failed  for  the  third 
successive  season,  and  all  Lent  the  Vicar-General  had  excused  his 
afflicted  children  from  their  duty  of  abstinence,  so  pinched  were 
the  times.  But  now,  with  the  resurrection  of  the  earth  and  the 
grave  twilights  of  April,  there  was  hope  in  the  air,  and  the  tiled 
and  terrace-roofed  houses  that  clung  together  in  a  town  against 
the  rock,  like  the  nests  of  swallows  upon  a  chimney  of  stone, 
knew  again  the  music  of  the  guitar. 

Below,  in  the  famous  harbor  where  all  the  fleets  of  Europe 
might  ride  at  anchor,  lay  the  ships  which  had  brought  that  hope. 
Minorca  had  too  many  children  to  feed  from  a  narrow  and  in- 
durate breast—the  ships  would  take  some  away,  over  the  ocean, 
to  a  new  country,  where  the  British  flag  flew  from  the  top  of  a 
palm-tree  in  the  Floridas  of  America,  and,  after  four  years  of 
labor  for  the  master  of  the  expedition,  a  man  might  claim  his  own 
fifty  acres  of  fertile  ground  and  take  his  siesta  at  noon  in  the 
shadow  of  his  own  trees. 

Sebastian  Zafortezas,  looking  down  at  the  harbor  through  the 
clear  darkness,  made  out  the  riding-lights  of  those  ships,  and  pon- 
dered the  strange  benevolencies  of  the  English.  Quick,  loud- 
voiced,  red-faced  men  who  swore  without  punctilio  and  prayed 
without  courtesy,  who  bathed  themselves  unnecessarily  in  frigid 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

waters  as  a  preparation  for  future  torments  of  incessant  fire,  they 
nevertheless  displayed  an  extraordinary  unwillingness  to  let 
newly-reconquered  subjects  die  quietly  of  starvation.  They  were 
all  a  little  mad,  of  course,  and  the  master  of  the  ships  in  the  harbor 
no  doubt  as  mad  as  any. 

A  doctor  they  called  him,  but  Sebastian  could  hardly  believe  it. 
He  was  not  like  Spanish  doctors,  seemly  and  mournful,  as  befits 
one  who  immediately  precedes  the  priest  and  the  undertaker,  but 
spry  and  perpetually  smiling  with  clean  hands  and  a  gentleman's 
wig.  Moreover  the  English  governor  had  received  him  with  much 
honor,  which  even  an  English  governor  would  hardly  show  to 
one  whose  avouched  occupation  was  not  much  better  than  that 
of  a  burier-beetle.  Ah  well,  it  was  all  one,  thought  Sebastian- 
doctor  or  prince,  he  had  given  the  word  of  an  Englishman  as  to 
the  rewards  which  might  be  gained  by  those  who  embarked  with 
him  as  colonists  for  the  distant  country—and  the  word  of  an 
Englishman,  no  matter  how  mad,  was  good.  Minorca  had  learned 
that  in  her  last  fifty  years  of  shuttlecocking  between  the  Powers 
—and  the  hearts  of  her  people  cherished  few  romantic  yearnings 
for  reunion  with  Spain. 

Spain  was  well  enough,  but  they  were  the  people  of  the  islands. 
They  had  given  sailors  to  Carthage  and  slingers  to  Rome,  their 
rocks  held  deserted  altars  to  gods  forgotten  before  the  Cross. 
Their  pilots  had  known  the  sea  when  Prince  Henry  the  Navigator 
was  a  royal  doll  in  swaddling-clothes,  and  it  was  said  of  them  on 
the  mainland  that  the  poorest  fisherman  of  the  islands  was  prouder 
than  three  grandees. 

As  Sebastian  gazed  at  the  harbor,  he  felt  a  wave  of  unexpected 
sickness  strike  at  his  heart  at  the  thought  of  never  seeing  it  again 
nor  any  of  the  streamless  island  of  doves  and  eagles,  but  it  soon 
passed.  At  the  age  of  fifteen  he  was  admittedly  a  man  and  men 
did  not  suffer  from  homesickness.  Besides,  there  was  nothing  else 
to  do.  His  uncle  could  not  keep  him  in  Port  Mahon  any  longer; 
there  were  enough  mouths  in  that  house  already.  And  the  hut 
near  the  Altar  of  the  Gentiles,  in  the  boulders  of  Fererias,  where 
he  had  been  born  and  lived  till  a  year  ago,  had  been  picked  clean 
before  his  mother  died.  He  had  her  rosary  of  sea-snail  shells  and 
his  father's  knife;  that  was  all  one  could  expect. 

Moreover,  his  adventure  would  not  be  a  lonely  one.  When  the 
ships  passed  out  by  St.  Philip's  Castle  next  week,  on  the  track 


Spanish  Bayonet 

the  beaten  Almojarife  had  travelled  toward  Barbary  with  his 
people,  his  books  of  magic,  his  Moorish  gowns  and  his  fifty  swords, 
more  than  a  thousand  Mahonese  would  be  aboard,  men,  women 
and  children,  pet  lizards,  pots  and  scapulars.  Sebastian  saw  him- 
self in  the  future  for  an  instant,  gazing  out  over  the  foreign  land- 
scape of  his  fifty  acres  with  a  burst  ripe  fig  half-eaten  in  his  hand 
and  a  child  making  scrawls  with  a  stick  in  the  dust  before  his 
doorstep.  Then  he  turned  away  from  his  post  of  musing  with  a 
smile  on  his  mouth. 

He  had  made  his  confession  at  Easter  and  been  absolved— the 
past  was  balanced,  the  future  incomprehensible,— but  tonight  he 
could  dance  with  a  free  heart.  He  followed  the  clue  of  the  music 
along  mazy  alleyways,  his  body  a  little  giddy  at  times  from  weeks 
of  undernourishment,  but  his  mind  at  peace.  At  last  he  came  out 
where  the  wider  street  was  crowded  with  the  grave  dancers  and 
the  throb  of  the  guitars  echoed  like  silver  blood  in  the  dark  veins 
of  heaven.  He  stood  for  a  moment,  observing  the  scene. 

The  street  was  lit  by  torches— occasionally  one  of  them  would 
sputter  and  send  up  a  shower  of  tiny  golden  bees  in  the  still  air. 
Beneath  them  the  dissolving  patterns  of  the  dance  formed  and 
broke  and  reformed  again  like  a  shower  of  the  colored  petals  of 
flowers  stirred  by  light  wind.  The  women  danced  discreetly,  their 
eyes  cast  on  the  ground;  the  men  were  more  extravagant  in  their 
gestures;  but  in  the  faces  of  both,  the  eyes  were  large  with  star- 
vation and  solemn  with  joy.  The  rebozillas  pinned  about  the  heads 
of  the  women  did  not  hide  the  faint  hollows  in  their  cheeks- 
hunger  had  given  them  a  new  and  extenuate  beauty— their  feet 
seemed  lighter  to  them  and  a  little  mad.  The  red  worsted  girdles 
of  the  men  were  drawn  tighter  about  their  bodies,  their  cheeks 
showed  the  play  of  hunger  too,  but  their  broad  flat  shoes  of 
white  leather  slapped  gallantly  on  the  stones;  and  in  a  corner  of 
shadows  the  musicians  plucked  at  their  ribboned  instruments  yet 
more  swiftly  and  the  dance  went  on  and  on,  without  beginning 
or  end. 

Occasionally,  without  apparent  reason,  the  musicians  would  give 
in  unison  a  short  sonorous  cry,  and  the  bystanders  would  call 
out  at  once  "Long  live  the  dancers!"  in  reticent  approval,  to  be 
echoed  by  a  low,  soft  murmur  from  the  dancers  of  "Long  live 
the  lookers-on!"  Such  was  the  courtesy  of  Minorca,  and  to 
Sebastian,  as  he  watched,  the  murmurous  call  and  response  turned 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

to  the  perpetual  cooing  of  the  ringdoves  in  the  sea-caves  where 
his  father  had  been  drowned  and  the  red  of  worsted  girdle  and 
Phrygian  cap  was  the  blood  of  the  sun  sinking  into  the  waters 
of  evening  above  the  Altar  of  the  Gentiles,  and  music  touched 
at  the  heart,  and  an  island  was  hard  to  leave.  But  presently  he 
found  himself  dancing,  too— aloofly  and  arrogantly  as  befits  a  man 
of  fifteen. 

He  hardly  noticed  his  partner— the  torches  threw  confusing 
shadows,  her  eyes  were  averted,  her  mouth  hidden  behind  her 
black  fan.  Presently  one  of  the  bystanders  called  out  to  him 
gayly  in  the  permissible  words,  "Say  a  word  to  her!  Say  a  word 
to  her!"  He  responded  mechanically  in  the  set  and  ancient  com- 
pliment, "What  would  you  have  me  say  to  her  but  that  she 
has  the  face  of  a  rose?"  and  there  was  a  clapping  of  hands.  But 
her  face,  as  the  fan  drooped  aside  for  an  instant  in  acknowledg- 
ment, was  not  like  that  of  a  rose  but  a  darker  and  more  bar- 
barous flower.  He  sought  idly  for  the  name  of  such  a  flower  for 
a  moment,  then  the  thought  passed  from  his  mind  and  the  pattern 
of  the  dance  took  its  place.  "Ha!  Ha!"  cried  the  musicians  and 
stamped  their  feet— "Spain!  Spain!"  twanged  the  strings  of  the 

It  was  some  time  later  and  Sebastian  was  wholly  absorbed  in 
the  flow  of  the  dance,  when  the  little  ape  on  the  roof  of  one  of 
the  houses  overlooking  the  street,  decided  that  there  might  be 
pickings  down  among  men  if  he  were  bold  enough  to  go  and  look 
for  them.  He  was  very  hungry  but  equally  terrified  and  the  more 
recent  events  of  his  life  had  given  him  little  confidence  in  human- 
ity. Bought  from  a  Barbary  Jew  by  the  master  of  a  Spanish 
merchantman  and  sold  again  in  Mahon  harbor  to  a  drunken  pri- 
vate of  the  Royal  Irish  Foot,  he  had  tasted  the  characteristics 
of  three  different  nations  of  mankind  in  the  last  few  weeks  and 
found  each  as  bitter  and  strange  as  the  cold,  stinging  waters  of 
the  sea.  He  was  a  young,  uninstructed  ape,  smaller  than  most  of 
his  tail-less  species— and  his  disposition  normally  inclined  toward 
the  cheerful.  But  his  heart  was  gloomy  now,  and  the  fur  of  his 
body  miserable. 

There  were  neither  proper  victuals  nor  people  of  his  race  in 
this  stony  region  and  he  could  not  forget  the  fight  between  his 
latest  master  and  another  bellowing,  red-furred  giant  which  had 
given  him  his  liberty  some  hours  ago.  The  sergeant  had  made 


Spanish  Bayonet 

suggestions  anent  the  succulent  qualities  of  roasted  monkey  which 
the  other  had  not  treated  with  due  respect— but  a  knowledge  of 
this  was  spared  the  cause  of  the  combat  who  regarded  all  the 
various,  inexplicable  noises  emitted  by  the  human  race  with  the 
same  timid  disdain.  Their  occupations,  too,  seemed  both  futile 
and  mysterious,  he  thought  as  he  shivered  on  his  rooftop,  watch- 
ing the  dance.  One  never  could  expect  anything  of  them  but 
curious  pawings  and  tweakings  and  a  series  of  imprisonments  in 
places  that  smelt  indelicately  of  humanity.  But  his  hunger  drove 
him,  and  presently  he  slipped  down  the  wall  of  the  house  to 
crouch  a  moment  in  the  shadows  at  its  foot,  peering  about  with 
quick,  startled,  melancholy  eyes. 

The  dancers  did  not  observe  him  but  a  boy  half-asleep  in  a 
doorway  did,  came  awake  abruptly  and  ran,  shouting  and  waving 
his  arms.  Quite  distraught  with  terror  at  once,  the  monkey  lost 
his  wits  completely  and  darted  blindly  between  the  feet  of  the 
dancers.  Great  jostling  bodies  trampled  all  about  him  and  his 
nostrils  were  full  of  the  unpleasing  odor  of  man.  He  ran  this 
way  and  that  confusedly  for  an  instant  while  everyone  shouted 
and  pointed,  and  then  suddenly  leaped  for  refuge  at  something 
tall  and  stationary  which,  if  Fate  were  really  a  monkey,  might 
prove  to  be  some  new  sort  of  tree.  It  was  not  a  tree  but  a  man, 
and  he  knew  it  while  he  was  yet  in  the  air,  but  at  least  he  was 
off  the  dangerous  ground.  He  clung  to  the  man's  shirt,  half-dead 
and  hardly  daring  to  breathe.  But  the  man  stayed  perfectly  still, 
and,  after  a  while,  the  monkey  felt  a  linger  rubbing  his  fur  the 
right  way. 

The  incident  had  only  halted  the  dance  for  a  moment.  It  con- 
tinued now;  the  boy,  his  brief  excitement  forgotten,  fell  asleep 
in  his  doorway  again;  "Say  a  word  to  her!  Say  a  word  to  her!" 
called  the  loungers  by  the  walls  to  another  dancer;  the  music 
caught  new  fire  from  crafty  hands.  Sebastian  was  the  only  per- 
son much  affected— he  had  dropped  out  of  the  dance  and  stood 
a  little  removed  now,  gently  stroking  the  monkey's  back. 

He  could  not  have  said  why  he  had  protected  the  little  crea- 
ture—the Latin  has  no  great  native  tenderness  for  animals,  and 
while  monkeys  were  a  rarity  in  Minorca,  no  one  but  a  mad 
Englishman  would  buy  such  a  thing.  But  as  he  looked  into  the 
wrinkled  and  mournful  face  of  the  animal  clinging  at  his  breast, 
he  knew  tnat  he  intended  to  keep  it  if  he  could,  even  take  it  with 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

him  on  his  travels.  It  was  bad  to  refuse  shelter  to  the  shelterless, 
and,  though  this  petitioner  had  no  soul,  he  came  dressed  as  a 
friar  and  so  deserved  the  hospitality  of  a  Christian— but  those 
were  not  the  real  reasons,  "Besides,  we  are  both  alone  in  the 
world,"  thought  Sebastian— but  that  was  no  reason,  either,  for 
a  world  where  many  were  alone.  What  the  true  springs  of  his 
action  had  been,  he  could  not  have  said. 

uYou  shall  have  a  little  gold  collar  and  sit  on  a  perch  when  I 
have  my  fifty  acres,"  he  confided  to  the  monkey.  The  monkey, 
hearing  a  new  noise,  thought  he  was  to  be  beaten  and  looked  up 
prepared  to  bite—so  it  seemed  to  Sebastian  as  if  he  had  under- 
stood. After  a  moment  Sebastian  fumbled  a  piece  of  cord  from 
his  pocket  and  tied  one  end  about  the  monkey's  neck— an  atten- 
tion the  latter  accepted  with  passive  resignation— at  least  this 
latest  owner  seemed  quieter  than  the  others.  "There,"  said  Se- 
bastian. "No,  you  must  not  bite  at  the  cord— we  are  going  to 
the  Floridas,  monkey,  you  and  I— we  shall  be  rich  there,  mon- 
key," and  he  pulled  his  coat  around  further  so  the  monkey  should 
be  warm.  Then  his  eyes  turned  away  from  his  new  possession  and 
lost  themselves  in  watching  the  dance— and  presently  the  girl 
who  had  been  his  partner  and  whose  face  was  like  some  flower 
more  savage  than  the  rose  came  over  and  stood  near  him,  her 
fan  moving  in  a  slow  regular  beat  that  ruffled  the  soft  black  fur 
on  the  top  of  the  monkey's  head. 



Some  five  years  later,  the  merchantman,  "Pride  of  the  Col- 
onies," bound  out  of  New  York  for  St.  Augustine,  was  running 
before  a  fresh  breeze  down  the  blue,  sparkling  plain  of  the  At- 
lantic. The  single  passenger  she  carried,  a  young  man  named 
Andrew  Beard,  was  seated  in  a  sort  of  improvised  chair  by  the 
lee-rail,  watching  the  milk-streaked  ribbon  of  her  wake  dwindle 
out  continually  along  the  broad,  endless  back  of  the  sea,  with 
that  idle,  rather  pleasant  monotony  of  mind  which  comes  to 
those  who  have  been  many  days  on  the  water  without  much 


Spanish  Bayonet 

active  occupation.  A  small,  brown,  dumpy  copy  of  Mr.  Pope's 
translation  of  the  Iliad  lay  in  his  lap,  and  his  forefinger  mechani- 
cally kept  the  place  where  he  had  left  off  reading.  He  had  been 
drawn  from  the  book  by  a  certain,  inert  curiosity  as  to  whether 
the  color  of  the  waters  of  any  ocean  might  fitly  be  compared 
with  the  color  of  wine— and  having  decided,  sleepily,  that  not 
even  the  palest  vintages  of  the  Rhine,  beheld  through  green  Vene- 
tian glass,  could  match  the  occasional  streaks  or  lucid  emerald 
where  the  trace  of  the  ship's  wake  grew  faint  as  the  imprint  of 
a  feather  on  velvet,  had  excused  himself  from  further  concern 
at  present  with  the  doings  of  the  well-greaved  Achaeans. 

He  had  never  felt  either  so  well  or  so  lazy  and  New  York 
and  the  life  he  had  led  till  this  voyage  began  seemed  very  small 
and  distant— a  diminutive  red  city  with  paper  snow  on  its  gables, 
imprisoned  in  a  glass  bubble  that  the  sea  had  washed  away.  To- 
morrow, Captain  Stout  had  said,  they  were  likely  to  sight  the 
lighthouse  on  Anastasia  Island,  and  journey's  end— but  at  the 
moment  the  journey  still  seemed  infinite.  It  was  impossible  to 
think  that  in  a  little  while  the  last  sound  in  his  head  as  he  fell 
asleep  at  night  would  not  be  the  strain  of  the  breeze  in  the  cord- 
age and  the  complaint  of  wood  against  wind  and  water  or  that 
he  would  ever  rise  again  in  the  morning  to  look  out  upon  a  solid 
and  unfluctuating  world.  Nevertheless,  these  things  would  be  so, 
and  swiftly.  It  behooved  him,  against  his  will,  to  think  of  what 
lay  in  store  for  him  beyond  the, horizon,  and  why  he  had  lived 
all  this  time  with  a  seashell  held  close  to  his  ear. 

A  series  of  inconsecutive  pictures  passed  before  his  eyes.  He 
was  a  little  boy,  stiffly  seated  in  a  high,  banister-backed  chair 
before  a  gleaming  mirror,  his  eyes  sober  with  excitement,  as  that 
most  impressive  of  men,  his  father's  barber,  who  lived  in  a  shop 
full  of  sweet-smelling  bottles  with  a  great  gold  basin  hung  over 
the  front  door,  arranged  upon  his  shorn  head  with  deft,  pale, 
long  fingers  the  tiny,  marvellous  wig  that  had  come  in  a  box 
from  London,  and,  wonder  of  wonders,  crowned  it  at  last  with 
a  little  laced  hat,  just  like  his  older  brother's  even  to  its  Keven- 
huller  cock. 

He  smiled— how  proud  he  had  been  of  that  ridiculous  wig 
and  what  a  fight  he  had  had  with  the  butcher's  boy  who  had 
asked  him  jeeringly  if  old  Sandy  Beard  was  setting  up  for  a  Lord. 
Fashions  had  changed,  and  little  boys  could  wear  their  own  hair 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

now,  even  when  their  fathers  were  as  important  merchants  as 
Alexander  Beard.  The  thought  called  up  an  image  of  his  father's 
huge,  cool  storehouses  down  by  the  water  and  a  gang  of  Negroes, 
singing  together  in  rich,  deep,  mournful  voices,  as  they  unloaded 
merchandise  consigned  to  Alexander  Beard  and  Son  from  a  ship 
just  come  to  port  from  strangely-painted  corners  of  the  map. 
Wherever  the  commerce  of  New  York  Colony  voyaged,  Alex- 
ander Beard's  name  was  known  and  his  signature  good. 

The  storehouses  disappeared,  and  in  their  place,  for  some  rea- 
son, Andrew  saw  the  silver-sanded  floor  of  a  Dutch  kitchen.  He 
was  munching  an  oelykoek  and  Gerrit  Jans  was  telling  him 
stolidly  of  the  wonders  of  St.  Nicholas  who  stuffed  the  wooden 
shoes  of  godly  little  boys  in  Holland  with  crullers  and  toy  wind- 
mills and  silver  skates  on  his  name-day.  .  .  .  The  heavy,  flowery 
scent  of  the  catalpa-trees  outside  the  King's  Arms,  on  Broadway 
between  Crown  and  Little  Prince  Streets,  where  the  officers 
came  from  Fort  George,  mixed,  somehow,  with  the  odor  of 
mignonette  and  sweet-william  in  his  mother's  garden  in  the  coun- 
try. She  was  walking  along  the  bricked  path  on  a  hot,  Spring 
morning,  with  her  green  calash  shading  her  stern,  fine  face,  and 
a  small  painted  basket  of  seeds  in  her  hand. 

Then  he  was  one  of  a  group  of  boys  running  home  past  the 
Fort  on  a  chill,  green  winter  evening,  not  daring  to  look  aside 
lest  Governor  Sir  Danvers  Osborne,  who  had  hanged  himself  on 
the  palisade  after  five  days  of  office,  should  suddenly  be  dangling 
there  to  appall  them,  with  his  silk-handkerchief  noosed  around 
his  neck  ...  he  was  sitting  on  his  brother  Lucius'  knees  watch- 
ing the  historic  cockfight  out  on  the  Germantown  road  when 
Massachusetts  Boy  had  beaten  and  killed  Mr.  Signet's  long-un- 
defeated Cock  of  the  North  ...  he  was  walking  with  his  father 
underneath  the  arches  of  the  Exchange,  unspeakably  proud  at 
being  allowed  to  hold  his  father's  gold-headed  cane  and  see  him 
converse  with  the  great  ones  of  the  city. 

The  images  faded.  He  sighed,  lazily.  Boyhood  had  been  a 
good  time.  If  he  had  never  been  as  dashing  as  Lucius,  he  had 
always  admired  Lucius  far  too  much  to  envy  him  and  had  been 
well  content  to  take  second  place.  As  for  Peggy,  poor  child,  he 
certainly  did  not  envy  her—with  her  stiff,  buckram  stays  clamped 
on  her  round,  adolescent  body,  and  the  long  needle  stuck  upright 
in  the  front  of  her  dress  for  an  hour  each  day  to  teach  her  to 


Spanish  Bayonet 

hold  her  chin  erect  as  a  young  girl  of  quality  should.  Somewhere 
among  his  baggage  he  had  the  letter  case  stitched  with  red  and 
green  silk  that  had  been  her  damp,  parting  gift  to  him— and  how 
she  had  begged  him  to  bring  her  home  a  little  alligator  from  the 
Floridas!  He  smiled  amusedly.  He  felt  quite  old  enough  to  be 
Peggy's  grandfather,  now  that  he  was  travelling  alone  on  im- 
portant business  for  his  father— though  he  was  only  twenty-one 
i-.nd  she  was  fourteen. 

By  the  way,  he  must  look  at  his  new  case  of  pistols  again.  He 
had  been  warned  particularly  against  letting  the  sea-air  rust 
them.  But  the  thought  of  the  pistols  brought  up  the  troubled 
state  of  the  times  to  his  mind,  and  his  eyes  narrowed.  It  seemed 
to  him  that  through  all  the  years  of  his  boyhood,  New  York  had 
been  in  a  constant  turmoil  of  celebrations  and  protests  and  plac- 
ards on  the  walls.  The  Stamp  Act— the  Liberty  poles— the  repeal 
of  the  Stamp  Act  and  the  new  gilded  statue  or  a  togaed  King 
George  ramping  upon  a  fat,  embarrassed  charger  in  the  Bowling 
Green— the  liberty  boys  with  their  rowdy  songs  and  their  con- 
tinual scuffles  with  the  soldiers— this  tea  business,  now.  Lucius,  too 
—he  knew  that  his  father  suspected  Lucius,  for  all  his  dandyism, 
of  secret  affiliations  with  the  more  fashionable  wing  of  the  so- 
called  Friends  of  Liberty— young  Gouverneur  Morris  and  some 
of  the  Livingston  set.  He  himself  did  not  care  so  much  for  young 
Gouverneur  Morris.  His  celebrated  King's  College  oration  upon 
Wit  and  Beauty  might  be  of  as  marbled  an  elegance  as  the  con- 
versation of  Rasselas,  Prince  of  Abyssinia— but  he  wore  a  con- 
scious little  air  of  prodigy  that  irked  Andrew's  soul. 

Andrew  stirred,  uneasily,  and  wondered  what  the  latest  news 
was  from  the  madmen  in  Boston.  He  remembered  his  father's 
bitter  description  of  that  troublesome  John  Hancock— "a  rattle- 
tongued  spendthrift  who  has  wasted  two  fortunes  on  fine  clothes 
and  sedition"— mincing  along  the  streets  at  noonday  in  a  scarlet 
velvet  cap,  red  morocco  slippers  and  a  blue  damask  gown.  It 
would  have  been  fun,  if  you  had  been  unlucky  enough  to  be  born 
in  Boston,  to  paint  yourself  up  like  an  Indian  and  dump  tea 
chests  into  gray  water.  But  it  was  a  boy's  exploit,  for  all  that, 
hardly  worth  the  attention  of  a  level-headed  New  Yorker.  When 
the  New  York  tea-ship  arrived,  the  world  would  see  how  a  really 
civilized  colony  dealt  with  such  matters.  He  was  sorry  to  be  out 
-of  it  all— the  meeting  of  protest  at  the  City  Hall  had  been  most 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

impressive,  though  noisy.  Still,  it  was  quite  unthinkable  that  the 
present  tangle  would  lead  to  anything  really  serious.  They  would 
repeal  the  tea-tax  as  they  had  repealed  the  Stamp  Act— such  push- 
ing Massachusetts  gentry  as  Hancock  and  Sam  Adams  would  be 
taught  a  lesson— the  Livingston  faction  sing  smaller  for  a  while— 
and  people  drive  out  in  Italian  chaises  to  Turtle  Bay  for  fish-sup- 
pers to  the  end  of  time. 

He  yawned,  and  turning  his  head,  took  in  the  steady  eyes  and 
the  broad,  leathery  chest  of  the  helmsman  of  the  ship.  For  a 
boyish  moment  he  envied  the  man  completely  the  easy  strength 
of  his  hands,  and  the  blue  tail  of  the  tattooed  mermaid  disap- 
pearing under  his  shirt.  Then  he  told  himself  sternly  that  he  had 
pistols  in  his  cabin,  and  at  twenty-one,  was  already  the  master 
of  an  errand  that  could  command  the  bodies  of  a  dozen  such 
able  seamen.  He  tried  over  a  phrase  or  two  of  textbook  Spanish 
in  his  mind  and  then,  sailor  and  errand  alike  dismissed  for  the 
moment,  settled  back  to  reading  Mr.  Pope's  Homer  at  the  pas- 
sage where  Hector  bids  Andromache  farewell  in  the  choicest 
of  Addisonian  English. 


Nevertheless,  in  the  privacy  of  his  cabin  that  night,  as  he  lay 
on  one  arm,  staring  out  through  the  open  porthole  at  stars  that 
seemed  already  tropical  and  soft  in  a  languid  heaven,  certain 
fragments  of  his  last  long  conversation  with  his  father  recurred 
to  his  mind  to  trouble  it  obscurely.  For  one  thing,  not  one  of  the 
many  excellent  reasons  for  his  present  journey  to  the  South  had 
seemed  particularly  urgent  till  the  trouble  over  the  tea-tax  grew 
to  a  head. 

He  had  suffered  from  colds  and  occasional  fever  for  some  two 
winters,  and  the  doctor  had  diagnosed  a  weakness  of  the  lungs 
and  recommended  a  sea-voyage  toward  warmer  climates— that 
was  true  enough.  And  it  was  undoubtedly  true  that,  since  his 
health  had  not  permitted  him  to  finish  his  course  of  studies  at 
King's  College,  he  should  begin  to  learn  the  ins  and  outs  of  the 
great  merchant-house  of  Alexander  Beard  and  Son.  But  there 
had  been  something  in  his  father's  eyes,  when  they  talked  to- 
gether of  the  trip,  that  had  disquieted  him.  For  one  thing  he  had 


Spanish  Bayonet 

never  conceived  before  that  his  father  might  be  uncertain  of  or 
puzzled  by  anything  on  earth. 

He  had  started  out  firmly  enough  with,  "Andrew—how's  your 

"About  the  same,  sir,"  said  Andrew,  coughing. 

"H'm— sit  down,  lad—I  thought  so.  Well,  my  son,  you'll  be  rid 
of  it  shortly,  if  Dr.  Summerall  knows  his  business.  Can  you  sail 
on  the  Tride  of  the  Colonies'  for  St.  Augustine  two  weeks  from 
now— on  my  business?" 

"Yes  sir,"  said  Andrew,  at  once  dumbfounded  and  very  flat- 
tered. It  was  the  first  time  in  his  life  that  his  father  had  treated 
him  entirely  as  an  equal. 

"Good  son,"  said  Alexander  Beard  and  played  with  the  feath- 
ers of  a  goose-quill  a  moment.  "It  may  be  business  of  weight, 
Andrew.  I  would  go  myself  if,"  he  hesitated,  "if  times  were  more 
settled,  d'ye  see?— yes— I  might  go  myself— but  as  things  are—" 
He  frowned  and  lost  himself  in  staring  at  something  dubious 
he  seemed  to  see  in  the  wood  of  the  table.  After  a  while,  "You 
may  think  it  strange  I  don't  send  your  brother,"  he  said. 

Here  was  something  that  Andrew,  in  the  innocence  of  his 
heart,  had  never  even  considered.  The  glittering  Lucius  seemed 
to  him  far  too  splendid  an  adornment  of  the  house  of  Beard  to 
be  spared  for  any  such  errand.  He  said  something  of  the  sort. 

"Your  obleeged  servant  sir,  I'm  sure,  but  Lucius  is  a  damned 
macaroni!"  said  Alexander  Beard  abruptly,  then,  as  Andrew 
grew  rigid  with  loyalty,  "Sorry,  boy— I  lost  my  temper  then— 
but  your  brother,  Lucius— if  you  can  inform  me  why  your  brother 
Lucius"  (the  goose-quill  rapped  on  his  knuckles)  "makes  such 
friends  of  the  pack  of  ranting  Mohocks  that  set  up  barber's  poles 
to  Liberty  all  over  the  town—" 

"My  brother,  sir,"  said  Andrew,  stiffly,  "has  his  own  political 
opinions,  but—" 

"But,  but,  but,"  said  his  father  impatiently.  "Oh  your  brother's 
a  damned  fine  fellow— but  he'll  marry  that  Livingston  wench  be- 
fore he's  done  and  set  the  De  Lanceys  against  him  for  good  and 
all— if  he  doesn't  do  worse  and  go  to  bed  with  some  Boston 
madam  who  thinks  Sam  Adams  is  God  Almighty  because  he 
talks  like  a  codfish.  A  plague  on  them  all,  I  say-a  plague  out  of 
Egypt-"  He  threw  the  snapped  goose-quill  aside. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Andrew  was  silent— his  father's  tempers  were  rare,  but  when 
they  came,  they  had  to  run  their  course.  He  tried  not  to  hear 
what  his  father  was  saying  about  the  Livingstons  and  the  De 
Lanceys.  His  father's  passionate  reverence  for  James  De  Lancey, 
the  dead  ex-Governor,  had  always  irked  him  queerly,  and  he  had 
never  been  able  to  see  the  great,  stately  family  coach  roll  by 
behind  its  famous  white  horses  without  a  secret  feeling  of  dis- 
content. He  remembered  the  time  it  had  drawn  up  before  their 
own  door  and  the  arrogant,  courteous,  languid  gentleman  who 
was  carried  like  a  phial  of  holywater  inside  it  had  descended  to 
take  a  glass  of  Malaga  with  an  Alexander  Beard  whose  hands  and 
manner  were  suddenly  and  definitely  obsequious.  That  had  hap- 
pened when  Andrew  was  only  a  small  boy,  but  the  imprint  of 
it  had  remained  on  his  mind.  He  had  not  been  sorry,  a  little  later, 
to  stand  in  the  crowd  and  watch  the  long  black  worm  of  the 
funeral  procession  wind  slowly,  with  its  gilt-escutcheoned  hearse, 
toward  Trinity  Church,  while  the  minute  guns  from  Copsey  Bat- 
tery tolled  out  the  fifty-seven  years  of  the  dead  man's  life. 

UA  great  gentleman,"  his  father  was  saying.  He  sighed.  "And 
yet  one  that  would  drink  his  glass  of  wine  in  my  house  and  never 
once—"  He  checked  himself. 

Andrew  stirred  rebelliously.  "Father!  But  why  should  not  even 
a  gentleman  like  Governor  De  Lancey  take  wine  in  our  house?" 

"Why  not  indeed?"  said  his  father,  and  smiled.  "Why  not  in- 

The  words  were  gently-spoken,  but  at  their  implication,  An- 
drew felt  the  steady  world  rock  under  his  feet. 

"But,  Father,  we— we've  always  been— gentle— haven't  we?" 

"Gentle  enough,  of  a  surety,"  said  his  father,  with  eyes  averted. 
"Or  why  should  my  eldest  son  be  able  to  carry  a  sword?" 

"But— the  Beards  of  Westmoreland,  sir—"  said  Andrew,  horri- 
fied. Somehow,  he  had  always  taken  gentility  for  granted.  Now, 
in  a  brief  moment,  the  very  fabric  of  pleasant  existence  grew 

"Aye,"  said  his  father,  quietly.  "The  Beards  of  Westmore- 
land. Of  a  truth  no  one  can  say  that  there  are  not  Beards  in 
Westmoreland,"  and  he  actually  chuckled.  For  an  instant  Andrew 
was  appalled  to  find  himself  almost  hating  him.  In  his  mind,  he 
had  walked  through  the  green,  English  park  of  that  Westmore- 
land estate  a  thousand  times— he  had  rubbed  the  brown  dust 


Spanish  Bayonet 

away  with  his  finger  from  the  names  of  the  tombs  in  the  chapel 
that  ran  back  before  Elizabeth.  And  yet,  now  that  he  came  to 
think  of  it,  park  and  manor-house  and  chapel  alike  had  all  been 
built  of  the  insubstantial  stuff  of  his  own  imagination.  His  father 
had  never  told  him  one  word  about  his  people.  Now,  suspicion 
once  awake,  he  could  see  those  imaginary  ancestors  and  their 
signs  of  honor,  crumble  slowly  to  ash  before  him— leaving  only 
a  shopkeeper's  family,  uneasy  with  new-got  riches,  their  backs 
supple  whenever  a  gentleman  passed  in  the  street—and  he  felt 
naked  and  ashamed. 

Something  of  what  he  felt  and  thought  must  have  been  writ- 
ten in  his  face,  for  "Dinna  hurt  yourself  so,  laddie,"  said  his 
father  now,  his  speech  slipped  suddenly  back  to  the  burr  of  the 
countryman,  "That's  the  benefit  of  a  new  country.  A  man  starts 
more  even.  And  your  mother's  folk  are  gentle—and— well— we 
can  all  say  with  right  that  we're  gentle,  now.  But  nevertheless— 
no,  ye  wouldn't  understand— but  when  Governor  De  Lancey 
came  to  my  house—" 

He  left  the  words  in  the  air,  seeing  their  uselessness.  What  he 
said  was  true.  Andrew  could  not  understand.  He  could  not  look 
back  through  the  years  and  see  what  his  father  saw— the  little  boy 
in  the  rough  fur  cap  and  the  blue-yarn  stockings  staring  rouna- 
eyed  from  the  door  of  the  catchpenny  shop  to  see  the  fine  gen- 
tleman's coach  whirl  past  in  a  glory  of  gilt  and  glass  and  tram- 
pling white  horses— the  lank,  burningly-ambitious,  young  man 
with  ink  on  his  fingers  who  had  found  in  James  De  Lancey  a 
patron  worthy  of  worship.  The  little  boy  and  young  man  had 
come  a  long  and  hazardous  way  to  the  impressive  new  house 
on  the  right  side  of  Wall  Street,  with  its  fashionable  cupola  and 
the  Turkey  carpets  on  its  floors— but  the  stages  of  that  epic  were 
hidden  from  Andrew,  and  father  and  son  looked  at  each  other 
across  a  barrier  that  would  not  fall. 

"Well,  sir,"  said  his  father  at  last,  breaking  the  deep  silence, 
"as  to  this  matter  of  the  Floridas— " 

The  ensuing  conversation  helped  Andrew  back  on  his  feet 
again  at  the  time,  though,  remembered,  certain  things  rose  in  a 
cloud  of  silver  bubbles  to  fret  him.  He  had  always  known  his 
father's  business  interests  wide,  but  now,  for  the  first  time,  he 
saw  them  unroll  before  him  like  a  parti-colored  map  on  the 
dark  table,  and  it  made  him  proud.  Even  down  in  that  strange, 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

hot,  spicy  peninsula  so  lately  Spain's,  his  father's  eyes  saw  the  long 
rows  of  indigo,  cut  down  in  the  moment  of  flowering,  and 
counted  the  profit  of  traffic  with  swamp  Indians,  hidden  like 
alligators  in  the  marshes,  and  the  yield  of  fields  of  sugar  cane  he 
had  never  seen  in  the  flesh. 

It  appeared  that  his  father  had  had  some  dealings  already  with 
this  Scotch  Dr.  Hilary  Gentian  who  had  brought  his  mixed  cargo 
of  Minorcans,  Greeks  and  Italians  to  colonize  the  hammock- 
lands  below  St.  Augustine.  "An  ingenious  man,  sir,  but  pressed 
for  money— and  the  men  in  London  never  understand  that.  They 
think  a  colony  grows  as  easily  as  a  thistle  patch,  once  it's  seeded— 
'tis  more  like  an  asparagus-bed— you  can't  expect  returns  for  the 
first  few  years."  Yet  there  had  been  some  returns  already— the 
indigo  alone  had  brought  in  three  thousand  pounds  during  the 
last  year.  "Then  there  are  his  sugar  works— and  the  hemp  and 
maize  and  barilla.  But  they  began  with  over  two  thousand  souls 
to  feed  and  were  much  harassed  by  sickness,  I  understand.  You 
must  be  free  with  your  glass,  boy,  when  you  reach  there— they 
say  a  free  glass  wards  off  the  fevers." 

Andrew  listened  dazzled,  seeing  the  strange  landscape  rise  be- 
fore him  with  its  blue  sea  and  its  tufted  palms  and  its  smell  of 
alien  blossoms.  And  yet  the  deep-seated  reason,  if  there  were  one, 
for  his  immediate  departure  remained  unexplained  to  him.  Dr. 
Gentian  had  been  warned  of  his  probable  arrival— that  made 
Andrew  blink  a  little— his  father  had  never  really  mentioned  the 
project  before.  He  was  to  remain  at  New  Sparta  for  a  number 
of  months  at  least— half-guest,  half-apprentice  in  the  ways  of  such 
a  plantation,  always  his  father's  agent.  "I  would  have  you  write 
me  most  fully  of  all  that  comes  to  your  mind— particularly  as  to 
whether  such  a  venture  as  Dr.  Gentian's  might  be  profitably 
copied  by  other  gentlemen  of  sufficient  fortune." 

Now  what  had  his  father  meant  by  that?  Surely  he  could  not 
be  thinking  of  transferring  part  of  his  interests  to  the  distant 
Floridas?  But  there  was  more.  "Also,  sir,  and  most  particularly, 
I  would  have  you  note  the  temper  of  the  colony  toward  these 
scatterbrains  your  brother  admires  so  greatly.  I  have  heard  that 
of  all  the  colonies  the  Floridas  alone  feel  no  whistle-belly  griev- 
ance against  the  Crown.  If  that  be  so— and  these  Gadarene  swine 
that  call  themselves  sons  of  Liberty  start  running  their  path  to 
the  sea-" 


Spanish  Bayonet 

"But,  sir,  you  cannot  really  think  that—" 

"I  do  not  know,"  said  his  father,  sombrely,  "I  do  not  know. 
God  knows  there's  no  reason—but  there.  I  only  know  where  the 
De  Lanceys  will  stand— if  it  comes  to  more  than  speechifying. 
And  their  interest  is  mine." 

"But  why  must  your  interest  go  with  any  other  man's  inter- 
est?" said  Andrew,  touchily— the  sting  still  in  the  old  wound  his 
father  had  reopened. 

"Because  it  must,  boy.  The  one  sure  loser  in  any  conflict  is 
your  neutral— and  we're  not  patroons.  It's  lucky  the  Patroon's 
a  minor— they'll  be  out  of  it  whatever  happens.  They'd  think 
me  mad  at  the  Coffee  House  if  I  told  them  what's  at  the  back 
of  my  mind,  but  let  a  few  years  pass  and— if  your  mother  could 
see  it  as  plain  as  I  do  and  were  better  able  to  stomach  the  trials 
of  a  new  venture— But  'tis  little  use  talking  of  that  and  things 
may  better  somehow— You'll  need  a  new  fowling-piece  and  some 
light  sort  of  gear— they  say  the  sun  is  hot,  though  not  deadly  as 
it  is  in  India—" 

So  the  conversation  had  flickered  out  into  a  discussion  of  An- 
drew's wardrobe  and  the  climate,  leaving  him  with  a  feeling  of 
mingled  insecurity  and  pride.  The  abrupt  extinction  of  those 
long-cherished  kinsfolk,  the  Beards  of  Westmoreland,  rankled 
now  and  then,  but  he  could  feel  no  scornful  challenge  to  the  ac- 
cepted dignity  of  the  house  of  Beard  in  the  air  of  the  city;  and 
a  fowling-piece  with  silver  mounts  soon  wiped  out  the  freshness 
of  the  hurt.  On  the  whole  he  was  too  anxious  to  acquit  himself 
well  and  too  awed  by  the  vague  magnitude  of  his  responsibilities, 
to  give  excessive  thought  to  the  gentility  of  his  lineage,  or  the 
lack  of  it. 

It  occurred  to  him  more  than  once  that  his  father  might  be 
sending  him  away  on  a  pretext  to  keep  him  from  mixing  too  in- 
timately with  those  friends  of  Lucius'  who  met  every  Thursday 
to  drink  toasts  of  a  porcupine  saddle,  a  cobweb  pair  of  breeches 
and  a  long  gallop  to  all  enemies  of  Liberty.  But  even  if  the  queer 
constraint  of  Lucius'  farewell  seemed  to  bear  this  theory  out- 
he  could  not  really  believe  in  it  when  he  thought  it  over.  And  it 
was  equally  impossible  to  believe  with  reason  that  his  father  actu- 
ally considered  abandoning  the  house  on  Wall  Street  and  the 
cavernous  storehouses  by  the  docks  for  a  palmetto-hut  by  a  white- 
shawled  strip  of  sand  just  because  a  row  of  wigs  in  a  vague 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

House  of  Parliament  over  the  water  had  decided  to  impose  a 
duty  on  certain,  small,  black  dried  leaves.  And  yet— 

The  days  of  the  voyage  gave  him  time  to  follow  many  such 
speculations  to  no  conclusion.  Of  only  one  thing  could  he  be  sure. 
The  fabric  of  life  had  always  seemed  secure  and  definite  before 
—now  he  felt  it  give  under  his  feet  like  a  floor  of  fresh  pine- 
boughs  and  saw  things  begin  to  grow  unfamiliar  that  had  always 
been  familiar  as  water  and  light. 

He  gave  the  problem  up  and  began  to  wonder  drowsily  just 
what  he  would  find  at  New  Sparta.  Dr.  Gentian  had  a  Greek 
wife  and  a  pair  of  daughters— or  was  it  a  daughter?  He  saw  a  tall, 
high-breasted  girl  with  the  face  of  Nausicaa— then  her  features 
sharpened— feathers  came  on  her  arms— was  she  harpy  or  eagle?— 
He  did  not  know,  but  there  was  a  soft  thunder  of  wings  about 
him  for  an  instant,  that  passed  away  into  the  rumble  of  a  cart 
over  the  paving-stones,  a  cart  bringing  sweet  water  to  the  house 
from  the  Tea- Water  Pump— a  blackamoor  got  out  of  it,  dressed 
in  his  brother  Lucius'  best  scarlet  coat  and  was  offering  him  a 
basket  of  indigo  in  the  name  of  Liberty  as  he  fell  asleep. 

The  rumble  of  the  cart  was  in  his  ears  again  as  he  woke,  but 
he  translated  it  swiftly  into  accustomed  sounds.  Bare  feet  ran 
on  the  deck  above  him  to  the  piping  whine  of  the  bosun's 
whistle— cries  answered  a  bawling  voice.  He  jumped  out  of  his 
bunk  and  felt  something  knock  at  his  heart.  Through  the  round 
porthole,  like  a  picture  held  in  the  circle  of  a  spyglass,  was  the 
white  stone  thumb  of  a  lighthouse  and  a  crawling  line  of  foam 
on  a  beach— then,  across  more  water,  the  vivid  green  of  unex- 
pected pines  and  the  solid  bones  of  land.  The  land  had  been  an 
indented,  meaningless  line  to  starboard  before,  vanishing  and  re- 
appearing again  like  a  casual,  evanescent  mark  scrawled  hastily 
on  the  surface  of  the  universal  sea— now  it  lay  broad  across  the 
path  in  a  continent,  and  the  sea  shrank  back  again  from  the 
illimitable  and  savage  world  into  measurable  blue  water,  fretting 
the  sides  of  a  cup  of  rock  and  sand.  He  dressed  hastily,  in  a 
mounting  excitement  and  ran  up  on  deck. 

"Have  to  anchor  outside  the  bar,  sir,"  said  Captain  Stout.  "The 


Spanish  Bayonet 

Pride's  a  lady— she  draws  more'n  eight  feet  of  water,  she  does— 
Now  if  she  was  one  of  your  nasty  little  French  baggages,  'which 
she  ain't—" 

Andrew  nodded  sagely,  paying  little  attention.  Now  the  actual 
land  lay  so  plump  before  them,  he  felt  a  vast,  unreasonable  im- 
patience at  the  various  petty  motions  that  must  be  gone  through 
before  they  could  set  foot  on  it.  The  air  seemed  to  him  to  smell 
of  oranges  already  and  he  stared  through  the  captain's  spyglass 
feverishly,  as  if  doing  so  would  transport  him  at  once  to  the 

"That's  the  Fort,"  said  the  Captain,  pointing,  "Spanishy-look- 
ing  affair,  /  call  it— see  the  lobster-back  walking  post?  Cathedral's 
over  there— don't  know  as  you  can  make  it  out—"  He  chuckled, 
"Queer  souls,  Spaniards,  and  that's  a  fact,"  he  confided.  "No  spit 
and  polish  about  them— no,  sir.  Don't  even  have  any  Christian 
sort  of  a  bellringer  in  the  church— just  a  lame  old  codger  to 
rattle  the  bells  with  a  stick." 

Andrew  turned  to  him  with  a  thousand  questions  on  his 

"How  soon  before  we—" 

"Oh,  they  know  we're  here,"  said  the  Captain,  chuckling  again. 
"See  that  boat,  Mr.  Beard?  Shouldn't  be  surprised  if  Dr.  Gentian 
was  aboard  her."  His  throat  suddenly  became  a  leather  trumpet. 
"Aye,  Mister  Mate?"  he  roared.  He  turned  away. 

The  black,  struggling  bug  in  the  waves  jumped  into  a  long- 
boat as  Andrew  put  the  glass  to  his  eye  again.  He  could  see  the 
sweat  start  on  the  backs  of  the  eight  Negro  rowers  as  their  oars 
rose  and  fell  in  thrashing  dumb-show.  But  the  figure  in  the  stern- 
sheets  was  what  held  his  gaze— if  it  could  be  Doctor  Gentian. 

He  had  expected  such  a  different  personage.  A  Scotch  army- 
surgeon  turned  planter  suggested,  somehow,  a  tall,  rawboned, 
iron-mouthed  dragoon  in  patched  kilts  and  a  palmetto  hat.  This 
spruce,  erect  little  figure  with  the  chin  and  eyes  of  Caesar  was 
dressed  in  black  superfine  broadcloth,  with  Mechlin  ruffles  at  the 
throat  and  wrists.  His  wig  was  freshly  powdered,  his  gold-laced 
hat  cocked  in  the  fine  extreme  of  fashion— even  Lucius,  Andrew 
thought,  might  have  been  a  little  awed  by  the  sombre  perfection 
of  his  attire.  Andrew  suddenly  realized  the  incongruity  of  his 
own  apparel  with  a  start.  He  had  dressed  hastily,  in  the  clothes 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

he  had  worn  during  most  of  the  voyage.  After  one  glance  through 
the  spyglass  at  his  host,  the  glazed  hat  borrowed  from  a  sailor 
on  his  own  head,  the  loose  shirt  and  wide  breeches  he  had  thought 
so  aptly  nautical,  made  him  feel  as  if  he  had  strolled  into  White's 
in  London  painted  like  a  Seneca  chief.  He  cast  a  wild  glance 
around  him,  but  it  was  too  late.  They  were  lowering  the  Jacob's 
ladder  already.  In  a  moment  Dr.  Gentian  would  be  aboard. 

"Ahoy,  Pride  of  the  Colonies!"  came  a  sharp  clear  voice  from 
the  water.  "Ahoy,  Captain  Stout!" 

"Ahoy  sir!"  called  the  Captain.  "Stand  by  the  ladder  for  Dr. 
Gentian,  you  sons  of  sweeps,  or  by  God  I'll— We've  a  passenger 
aboard  for  ye,  Doctor!" 

The  spruce  little  Caesar  in  black  broadcloth  called  back  some- 
thing that  the  wind  blew  away.  Then  he  was  coming  up  the 
Jacob's  ladder  as  nimbly  as  a  fly.  Andrew  shivered  with  annoy- 
ance and  embarrassment.  Why  hadn't  the  Captain  told  him  the 
Doctor  was  like  this? 

"Mr.  Beard?"  said  the  man  whom  Andrew  had  visualized  as  a 
kilted  dragoon.  There  was  a  fresh  breeze  blowing,  but  not  a 
drop  of  spray  seemed  to  have  spotted  his  black  silk  stockings  and 
he  stepped  across  the  spattered  deck  with  the  quick  daintiness  of 
a  cat.  "Your  obliged,  obedient  servant,  Mr.  Beard."  A  ring  winked 
on  his  outstretched  hand. 

"Nay,  yours,  sir,"  said  Andrew,  diffidently,  and  stood  staring. 

He  liked  Dr.  Gentian  at  first  sight— there  was  something  very 
merry  about  his  mouth.  Moreover,  he  had  obviously  taken  in 
Andrew's  strange  attire  at  one  rapid  glance,  and  yet  the  sight  had 
not  perceptibly  increased  his  merriment. 

Captain  Stout  came  bumbling  up  in  a  sort  of  respectful  fury. 

"Servant,  Doctor  Gentian— so  you've  met  your  passenger?— 
good,  sir.  You'll  find  him  a  bit  broadened  out  since  he  started  to 
voyage  with  us— none  of  your  night-sweats  now,  eh,  Mr.  Beard?— 
and  if  you  could  have  seen  him  set  to  his  victuals  after  the  first 
natteral  squeamishness,  sir— By  God,  the  first  day  out,  I  thought 
he'd  puke  the  very  anchor  up— but  after  that—" 

Andrew  felt  with  abhorrence  that  his  ears  were  reddening,  but 
Dr.  Gentian  saved  him. 

"The  sea  plays  odd  tricks  on  the  best  of  us,"  he  said  easily, 
"I  have  seen  an  Admiral  of  the  Blue  hold  his  head  in  his  cabin 
and  wish  himself  a  turnip-patch  back  on  land— the  first  day  out." 


Spanish  Bayonet 

He  turned  to  Andrew,  "I  am  glad  to  hear  our  good  captain  is  so 
excellent  a  victualler.  Do  you  snuff,  Mr.  Beard?" 

"Thank  you,  sir,"  said  Andrew  gratefully,  his  fingers  fumbling 
at  fine  rappee  in  a  gold-and-tortoise  shell  box.  The  little  act 
somehow  set  himself  and  Dr.  Gentian  apart  from  the  effusive 
Captain  in  a  world  where  the  immodest  allusions  of  such  captains 
to  nausea  and  victuals  were  the  permitted  liberties  of  old  family 

"A  weakness  of  mine,  I  fear,"  sighed  Dr.  Gentian,  after  an 
elegantly-managed  sneeze.  Andrew's  sneezes  had  been  far  less 
elegant  but  he  noted  gratefully  that  Dr.  Gentian  had  not  been 
critical.  Now,  though,  he  grew  a  little  brisk. 

"But  we  must  have  you  ashore,  Mr.  Beard,  as  soon  as  may  suit 
your  convenience.  Have  you  breakfasted?" 

"Not  yet,"  said  Andrew,  suddenly  conscious  that  he  wished 
to  very  much. 

Dr.  Gentian  put  his  palms  together  softly.  "Excellent.  Then 
you  must  do  me  the  honor  of  breakfasting  with  me  at  Judge 
Willo's— we  must  set  out  for  New  Sparta,  tomorrow,  I  fear, 
but  meanwhile  it  is  only  fit  you  should  meet  some  of  the  gentry 
of  the  town.  Perhaps  Captain  Stout  would  favor  us,  also—" 

"Thankee,  Doctor."  Somehow  the  captain  had  deflated  in  the 
last  few  minutes  and  seemed  awkwardly  aware  of  it.  "But  I 
shan't  get  ashore  much  before  noon,  you  know—" 

"You  deprive  us  of  a  pleasure,  I  assure  you."  The  Doctor  was 
smiling  again,  "Mr.  Beard,  I  venture  to  hope,  will  not  be  so 

"Delighted— certainly— Doctor  Gentian,"  stammered  Andrew 
onfusedly,  "but— my  luggage—" 

"I  am  sure  our  good  captain  can  send  what  you  find  most 
Accessary  with  us— the  heavier  luggage  can  follow  later.  I  have 
already  settled  for  the  services  of  a  barber  for  you,  in  case  you 
should  need  him.  A  sea-voyage  is  always  trying  to  one's  razors. 
If  there  is  anything  else— you  have  only  to  command  me— I  have 
a  little  business  to  transact  with  the  captain— but  if  you  could  be 
ready  to  go  ashore  with  your  small  baggage  in  half  an  hour— Your 
servant  till  then,  sir." 

"Yours,"  said  a  slightly  bewildered  but  flattered  Andrew,  and 
stumbled  down  below  to  strip  himself  hastily  of  the  glazed  hat 
in  which  he  had  taken  such  pride  and  to  thank  his  stars  that  he 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

had  abandoned  the  transient  idea  of  having  the  bosun  tattoo  the 
Royal  Arms  of  Great  Britain  in  blue  across  his  chest. 

The  evening  air  was  light  with  the  frail  sweetness  of  crepe- 
myrtle;  a  little  wind  stirred  in  the  trees  like  the  ghost  of  a 
humming-bird.  In  Judge  Willo's  dining-room,  the  cloth  had  long 
been  drawn  and  the  branched  silver  candlesticks  at  either  end 
of  the  table  cast  shadowy  pools  of  light  that  seemed  to  sink  into 
the  grain  of  the  dark  mahogany.  The  wreck  of  the  dessert  lay 
scattered  like  the  relics  of  a  battlefield— a  great  china  punchbowl 
of  bombo  had  succeeded  the  St.  Lucar  wine  and  gentlemen  were 
beginning  to  be  flushed  and  loquacious.  Andrew,  seated  between 
Judge  Willo  and  Dr.  Gentian  in  the  post  of  honor,  sipped  slowly 
at  the  cool  deceptive  compound  of  grated  nutmeg,  sugared  water 
and  Antigua  rum,  and  felt  a  great  indefinite  affection  for  all 
humanity  in  general  and  the  Floridas  in  particular  rise  in  his  heart. 

He  was  wearing  his  best  India-muslin  cravat,  his  hair/  was 
clubbed  and  powdered,  he  felt  clean  and  gay  and  at  ease.  Already 
he  loved  this  little,  lazy  city  whose  trees  were  hung  with  the 
golden  balls  of  oranges  and  whose  houses  were  built  of  a  multi- 
tude of  tiny  seashells  weathered  into  stone.  He  would  be  sorry 
to  leave  it  in  the  morning— the  projecting  balconies  of  the  old 
Spanish  dwellings  had  printed  their  shape  on  his  heart.  Many 
times,  in  the  dreams  before  dawn,  in  the  cold  hour,  he  would 
wander  the  narrow  swept  streets,  for  years  unmarred  by  the 
track  of  any  wheeled  vehicle,  where  the  Spanish  ladies  in  the  old 
time  had  walked  in  their  satin  ball-slippers,  at  evening,  with  a 
languid  grace. 

He  finished  his  glass  of  bombo  with  an  air  of  wise  melancholy 
—life  was  like  that.  The  glass  was  refilled— he  drank  again,  ab- 
stractedly, using  on  the  world.  Life  was  like  that,  yes.  Life  was 
an  orange-tree— an  orange-tree  in  flower— and  he  was  getting  a 
little  drunk. 

Only  two  things  marred  his  perfect  content— his  interview  with 
the  Governor  and  the  fact  that  his  best  shoe-buckles  had  been 
slightly  tarnished  by  the  sea-air.  The  Governor  was  a  petulant, 
worried  person  who  had  treated  him  like  a  boy.  But  Dr.  Gentian 
had  behaved  to  the  man  with  freezing  civility  and  apologized  for 




Spanish  Bayonet 

him  to  Andrew  later.  "An  honest  gentleman,  Mr.  Beard,  but  alas, 
no  friend  of  mine."  "Then  no  friend  of  mine,  sir,  I'll  warrant 
ou!"  Andrew  had  cried  sagaciously  and  Dr.  Gentian  had  thanked 
im  gravely  and  explained.  It  appeared  that  the  best  of  St.  Augus- 
tine was  with  them  in  lacking  the  Governor's  approval. 

The  candles  were  growing  very  bright.  Judge  Willo's  voice 
in  his  ear  besought  him  to  tell  the  company  again  the  ridiculous 
tale  of  Governor  Tryon's  escape  in  his  shirt  from  his  burning 
house  and  how  only  the  heavy  snow  on  the  roofs  of  the  city  had 
saved  New  York  from  a  general  conflagration  that  winter.  It  was 
an  effort  to  find  the  proper  words,  but  when  he  did,  he  was  well 
repaid,  for  all  the  gentlemen  laughed  like  thunder  and  Dr.  Gentian 
clapped  him  on  the  back  and  called  him  a  very  Harry  Fielding  for 
choiceness  of  wit.  Then  he  tried  to  repeat  some  verse  of  Phillis 
Wheatley's,  the  young  Negro  poetess  who  had  just  made  such  a 
stir,  but  broke  down  in  the  middle  and  only  saved  himself  by 
saying  that  he  hoped  they  understood  he  had  meant  no  dis- 
respect to  Governor  Tryon  by  his  story. 

"Governor  Tryon's  worthy  gentleman,"  he  heard  himself  re- 
peating. "They  called  him  the  Black  Wolf  in  the  Carolinas— but 
he's  for  the  King!  And  we're  all  for  the  King  here,  aren't  we— 
and  damnation  to  liberty-boys?  Who  isn't  for  the  King  here?" 
he  asked  uncertainly,  but  his  query  was  drowned  in  a  roar  of 
applause  as  they  all  stood  up  and  drank  to  the  King.  Andrew, 
drinking  too,  felt  the  tears  come  to  his  eyes  at  the  thought  of 
such  splendid  loyalty  to  the  King.  He  tried  to  picture  the  King 
to  himself— he  felt  he  should— but  the  features  kept  getting  more 
and  more  uncertain. 

A  second  bowl  of  bombo  succeeded  the  first  and,  some  time 
later,  Andrew  found  himself  by  a  window,  gazing  out  into  the 
garden.  His  legs  seemed  subject  to  occasional,  inexplicable  wab- 
blings,  but  the  night  air,  cool  on  his  forehead,  was  a  great  re- 
freshment. He  glanced  back  at  the  room— a  stertorous  huddle  of 
scarlet  on  the  floor  must  be  that  pleasant  Major  from  the  garrison, 
succumbed  at  last  to  bombo  and  the  force  of  gravity— the  gentle- 
man in  plum-colored  velvet  whose  name  he  could  not  remember 
was  asleep  with  his  head  in  a  bowl  of  nuts— Judge  Willo  seemed 
to  be  making  indefinite  attempts  at  song.  Andrew  felt  a  great 
pride  that  he  was  still  soberly  on  his  feet. 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"They  say  our  moonlight  here  is  brighter  than  yours  in  the 
North,"  said  the  serene  voice  of  Dr.  Gentian  in  his  ear. 

"  'Tis  very  bright,  in  all  conscience,"  said  Andrew  a  little 
thickly.  The  Doctor's  glass  had  been  filled  as  often  as  any,  but 
he  seemed  as  yet  quite  untouched  by  the  revel.  The  small,  demure, 
merry  mouth  was  composed  and  peaceful,  the  calm  face  showed 
only  a  tinge  of  added  color,  the  slight  pressure  of  the  fingers  on 
Andrew's  elbow  was  firm  and  springy  as  a  vise  of  tough,  light 

"Shall  we  stroll  in  the  garden  a  moment  and  let  the  air  freshen 

Andrew  assented,  with  an  effort,  but  a  fuddled  cry  of  "Gen- 
tian! One  moment,  Gentian!"  called  the  Doctor  away  for  a 
moment  and  Andrew  remained  at  the  window,  gazing  up  at  the 
sky  and  trying  to  keep  a  sparkling  wheel  from  whirring  about  in 
his  head. 

The  moonlight  was  bright  indeed,  the  moon  huge  and  pale, 
the  garden  crowded  with  silver  trees  and  flowers.  At  its  foot  grew 
a  single  bush  of  Spanish  bayonet  which  seemed  to  Andrew,  as  he 
stared,  the  most  beautiful  thing  he  had  ever  seen,  for  it  too  was 
in  flower,  and  the  single  stalk  of  waxen  petals  rose  out  of  the 
green  spikes  of  the  plant  like  a  cold  plume  set  upon  a  barbarous 
crest.  Andrew  filled  his  eyes  with  the  sight  of  it— it  seemed  to 
him,  suddenly,  as  if  he  had  run  his  hand  into  the  very  soil  of  this 
new  country  and  touched  its  heart.  Not  even  the  orange-groves 
could  so  explain  the  nature  of  the  land,  for  they  were  fruitful 
and,  after  a  fashion,  tamed,  but  this  bush  of  thorns  gave  nothing 
to  man  but  a  single  bloom  of  moonlight,  serene,  careless  and 
wholly  pure.  More  northern  latitudes  could  not  suffer  such  a 
creation— only  in  the  hot  night  of  the  south  could  the  ivory  frond 
arise  from  among  edged  blades  to  challenge  a  tropic  star. 

As  Andrew  considered  this,  he  felt  just  on  the  edge  of  some 
great  discovery— some  immense  understanding— some  gift  of 
tongues— but  Dr.  Gentian's  hand  was  lightly  imperious  on  his  arm 
again,  and  he  was  being  led  outside  to  have  his  eyes  dazzled  by 
the  moon.  The  half-made  discovery  slipped  away— the  gift  of 
tongues  was  forgotten.  There  remained  only  a  leaden  body  and 
a  flight  of  stairs  unnaturally  steep  and  limitless,  up  which  he  was 
being  assisted  to  lie  down  at  last  in  a  bed  that  whirled  into  spin- 
ning darkness. 

Spanish  Bayonet 

Three  days  later  the  events  of  that  evening  were  forgotten 
phantasmagoria,  and  only  the  shape  of  the  Spanish  bayonet  stood 
out  distinct  and  fruitful  in  Andrew's  memory.  To  have  been 
drunk  in  good  company  was  nothing  to  be  ashamed  of— but  the 
long  next  day  in  the  saddle  had  been  torment,  in  spite  of  all 
Dr.  Gentian's  solicitude— and  the  following  one  had  found 
Andrew  sober  enough,  but  stiff  and  sore.  The  third  day,  how- 
ever, almost  made  him  regret  that  they  would  reach  the  end  of 
their  journey  at  evening.  The  air  had  been  flawless  since  dawn, 
his  first  saddle-weariness  had  abated  a  little,  and  he  had  begun 
to  notice  the  details  of  the  land. 

All  morning  they  had  ridden  through  low  barrens,  smelling 
of  pine-needles—then  the  road  had  turned  to  swampier  country, 
where  red  cane  fringed  the  edge  of  the  spongy  bay-galls  and  a 
thrown  stone  went  in  with  a  sucking  sound.  Over  languid  creeks 
bridged  with  cedar-planking  the  road  took  its  way— past  swamps 
where  mosquitoes  buzzed  and  alligators  slept  and  rotting  ancient 
trees  were  hung  with  Spanish  moss  like  witches'  hair— then  wound 
up  into  the  woods  again. 

They  had  passed  a  woodrat's  disorderly  house  of  sticks  and 
seen  the  rat  run  chattering  up  a  tree  with  a  young  rat  hanging 
to  its  tail.  They  had  slept  in  the  green  russell  chamber  of  a 
manor-house  whose  furnishings  would  not  have  shamed  the 
Patroon  and  whose  master  entertained  them  with  music  upon  the 
German  flute;  they  had  plucked  dwarf  wild-oranges  from 
stunted,  untended  trees  and  ridden,  at  evening,  up  a  grassy  avenue 
heavy  with  the  sweetness  of  magnolia-bloom;  and  once  Andrew 
had  seen  a  cinnamon-colored  Indian  stare  at  them  for  a  moment 
out  of  the  tangled  underbrush  with  eyes  black  as  obsidian  beads, 
to  vanish  among  the  leaves  as  noiselessly  as  a  puff  of  dandelion 
seed.  Now  the  shadows  were  long  with  late  afternoon,  the 
road  skirted  the  river,  and  New  Sparta  was  near. 

"There,"  said  Dr.  Gentian  as  they  came  to  a  fork  in  the  road. 

Andrew  followed  the  line  of  his  hand  and  made  out  a  clot  of 
white  among  distant  trees.  "The  upper  road  is  ours,  Mr.  Beard— 
the  lower  goes  down  to  the  colony  itself.  You  shall  see  it  soon 
enough.  For  the  present,"  he  smiled,  "I  imagine  you  have  ridden 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

hard  enough  these  last  days  to  postpone  the  pleasure.  The  best 
lands  are  farther  down  the  river— that  is  why  you  see  no  signs  of 
our  industry  here." 

"I  thought  you  lived  in  the  colony  itself,  sir,"  said  Andrew, 
making  conversation. 

"Not  precisely,"  Dr.  Gentian  was  very  amiable.  "My  own 
house  is  over  a  mile  from  the  wharves— you  see,  indigo  needs  space 
and  we  have  more  than  a  thousand  souls  in  the  settlement  itself— 
there  were  more  at  first  but  one  always  loses  a  number  when  men 
are  transplanted  to  a  new  climate—" 

He  chatted  on,  describing  his  newly-finished  sugar-mill  and  the 
system  of  irrigation  he  had  recently  completed.  Andrew  fell 
more  and  more  under  the  spell  of  that  easy,  Caesarean  voice.  Be- 
side this  man,  with  his  tales  of  strange  travel  in  the  Indies  and  the 
Greek  Islands,  with  his  casual  chat  of  the  great  ones  of  London 
and  Paris,  even  Alexander  Beard  began  to  seem  2  little  provincial. 
Now  he  quoted  a  passage  from  the  Georgics  to  illustrate  a  point 
in  husbandry,  and  turned  from  that  to  a  discussion  as  to  whether 
Dr.  Goldsmith's  "She  Stoops  to  Conquer,"  witty  though  it  was, 
might  fitly  be  compared  to  the  best  of  the  comedies  of  Plautus. 
Andrew  felt  his  own  mammoth  ignorance  descend  upon  him  like 
a  heavy  velvet  pall  and  thought  humbly  that  Lucius  should  have 
come  in  his  place.  He  resolved  to  write  to  Lucius  for  the  best 
edition  of  Plautus  procurable  at  Garret  Noel's  bookshop  before 
the  week  was  out. 

He  was  so  engaged  in  trying  to  listen  intelligently  that  he  did 
not  notice  how  the  road  stole  away  from  the  river  again;  and 
the  goal  of  their  three  days'  ride  was  almost  upon  him  before  he 
realized  it.  The  great,  white  coquina  house  s€bod  on  a  slight  rise 
of  ground,  its  stables  and  outbuildings  massed  behind  it.  There 
were  lights  in  its  windows,  for  twilight  had  fallen,  and  as  the 
tired  horses  pricked  their  ears  and  whinnied  at  the  thought  of 
oats,  servants  came  running  out  with  lanterns  and  hubbub.  An- 
drew knew  suddenly  that  he  was  very  tired  and  struggled  from 
his  saddle  at  last  with  the  stiff  awkwardness  of  a  marionette.  He 
was  glad  to  throw  the  horse's  reins  tc  a  grinning  little  boy,  but 
too  weary  to  pay  much  attention  to  the  bustle  about  him. 

"My  dear,"  said  Dr.  Gentian  and  kissed  a  tall  woman  with 
a  proud  nose  and  a  secret  mouth  delicately  upon  the  cheek. 

Spanish  Bayonet 

"This  is  our  young  friend  from  New  York,  Mr.  Beard,  my  dear," 
and  Andrew  made  his  manners  dutifully  to  a  worn  comely  hand 
and  words  of  greeting  that  had  a  foreign  slur  in  them.  Then  there 
was  another  hand,  warm  and  pleasant  to  touch,  and  he  was  being 
introduced  to  a  yellow-haired  girl  with  eyes  gray  and  changing 
as  winter  cloud— "My  daughter—Miss  Sparta  Gentian."  But  she 
was  not  at  all  like  his  image  of  Nausicaa  and  Andrew  felt  vaguely 
disappointed.  Then  he  only  knew  that  he  was  hobbling  up  the 
steps  of  the  porch  in  a  disgracefully  ungenteel  manner,  but  he 
could  not  help  it  for  each  of  his  boots  was  made  of  solid  stone. 

Strength  and  curiosity  returned  to  him  with  food  and  wine, 
and  at  last,  seated  alone  with  Dr.  Gentian  while  the  Madeira 
passed  between  them  the  way  of  the  sun,  he  began  to  appraise 
the  circumstances  of  his  new  environment. 

"You  will  find  we  live  in  simple  rusticity,  Mr.  Beard,"  Dr. 
Gentian  had  said— but  if  these  were  Florida  notions  of  simple 
rusticity!  It  was  true  that  the  servants  were  not  in  livery  and 
that  the  dress  of  the  Gentian  ladies  was  not  quite  in  the  latest 
mode,  but  otherwise,  from  the  old  silver  plate  on  the  sideboard 
to  the  new  forte-piano  with  Lord  Kelly's  Overtures  upon  it  in 
the  drawing-room,  Andrew  might  have  thought  himself  enjoying 
the  famous  hospitality  of  a  Philipse  or  a  William  Walton  the 
elder.  That  was  certainly  a  fruit-piece  by  Vandermoulen  on  the 
wall,  and  the  Indian  chintz  hangings  of  his  own  bedroom  could 
not  have  been  bettered  at  the  fashionable  upholsterer,  Joseph 

His  eye  was  caught  by  the  flash  of  a  green  stone  on  Dr.  Gen- 
tian's finger.  There  was  cold,  precious  light  in  the  stone  like  the 
light  at  the  bottom  of  the  eyes  of  a  great  cat. 

"A  quaint  setting,"  said  his  host,  politely,  "I  had  it  when  I 
served  in  India.  The  Begum  happened  to  think  me  a  practitioner 
in  the  black  arts."  He  rose,  "Shall  we  join  the  ladies?" 

In  the  flowered  drawing-room,  the  tall  woman  with  the  proud 
nose  and  the  secret  mouth  was  embroidering  upon  catgut-gauze 
with  a  needle  tiny  as  a  fairy's  spear  and  the  gray-eyed  girl  who 
was  not  like  Nausicaa  was  seated  at  the  forte-piano,  playing.  She 
broke  off  as  they  came  in. 

"I  beg  you  will  not  cease  your  playing,  Miss  Gentian,"  said 
Andrew,  awkwardly.  "I  am  devoted  to  the  forte-piano,"  he 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

added,  feeling  the  words  were  foolish  as  soon  as  they  were  out 
of  his  mouth. 

"Then  I  shan't  dare  continue,"  said  the  girl  carelessly.  "My 
strumming  must  sound  like  a  rigadoon  on  a  milkpan  to  the  ears 
of  such  a  connoisseur— from  New  York—" 

"Miss  Gentian— I  implore  you,"  said  Andrew,  embarrassed. 

"Oh,  if  you'll  promise  me  no  criticism,  I'll  play,  sir— or  sing 
perhaps— 'tis  too  hot  for  playing  alone— the  piano  sounds  like  a 
locust  in  August— heat— heat— heat— "  she  drummed  it  out  on  the 
keys,  impatiently.  "But  sing,  sing,  what  shall  I  sing?  Shall  it  be 
Charley  over  the  Water,  father,  to  remind  you  of  the  Forty-Five 
—or  let  me  see— 'Bobby  Shaftoe,'  for  Mr.  Beard— 'Bobby  Shaftoe's 
come  from  sea— Silver  buckles  on  his— shoon— "  she  hummed  with 
gipsy  impertinence  and  Andrew  winced  as  he  saw  her  eyes  fixed 
mockingly  on  his  shoe-buckles— "Come,  fine  ladies  and  gentlemen 
—what  d'ye  lack— lack— " 

"Sing  'Beauty  Retire,'  daughter,"  said  her  father  quietly.  His 
eyes  were  intent  upon  hers  and  it  seemed  to  Andrew  as  if  he 
were  witnessing  some  obscure  and  inaudible  struggle  of  wills 
between  them— a  struggle  watched  by  the  tall  woman  in  the  chair 
with  great  weariness  of  mind. 

"That  old  thing?  Oh,  very  well— I'm  a  dutiful  daughter.  You'll 
pardon  our  rusticity,  Mr.  Beard— we  have  none  of  your  New  York 
novelties  here  in  songs  or  ladies—"  She  struck  a  chord  on  the 
forte-piano  as  if  she  hated  it,  and  began  to  sing. 

"Beauty  retire— retire— "  she  sang, 

"Retire— retire,  thou  dost  my  pity  move 
Believe  my  pity  and  then  trust  my  love—" 

Her  voice  was  extraordinarily  pure  and  moving.  Andrew,  lis- 
tening, thought  of  skeins  of  rock-crystal,  flecked  through  and 
through  with  tiny  flakes  of  the  softest  gold— of  a  golden  box 
where  a  crystal  bird  beat  and  beat  its  wings  in  trammelled,  scorn- 
ful delight.  Her  face  had  turned  grave  as  she  sang,  and  a 
little  drowsy,  as  if  some  excess  of  vitality  came  to  her  through 
the  act  of  singing  and  suffused  the  veins  of  her  heart  with  a 
sleepy  power.  She  was  like  a  child  now,  Andrew  thought— a 
beautiful,  daunting  child— 

Spanish  Bayonet 

The  song  ceased,  and  Andrew,  back  in  his  chair  again,  stam- 
mered some  sort  of  compliment.  But  she  would  not  sing  again. 
Instead  she  professed  an  interest  in  paduasoys  and  cordova-water 
and  the  genuineness  of  the  reported  mode  in  sage-green  cloaks 
trimmed  with  ermine.  Andrew,  trying  vainly  to  remember  the 
cut  of  the  sleeves  on  the  last  fashion  doll  from  London,  made 
but  heavy  weather  of  it.  But  he  did  not  mind,  for  the  girl 
seemed  to  have  forgotten  her  obvious  first  intention  of  being 
rude  to  him,  and  he  was  able  to  watch  the  play  of  her  smooth 
hands  as  she  talked.  Her  foreign  strain  came  out  in  that,  he 
thought— no  New  York  girl  of  his  acquaintance  would  have  ges- 
tured with  such  fluid  deftness.  He  saw  her  hands  for  a  moment 
as  separate  and  living  creatures,  molding  Tanagra  clay  to  the 
shape  of  a  precious  urn. 

Then  at  last  Dr.  Gentian  was  offering  him  a  candlestick  and  he 
was  bidding  them  all  good  night.  He  happened  to  say  good  night 
to  the  daughter  last  of  all  and  the  warm  touch  of  her  hand  went 
with  him  all  the  way  up  the  stairs,  as  if  he  had  dipped  his  fingers 
in  quicksilver  for  an  instant  and  seen  them  come  out  silvered. 
Dr.  Gentian  accompanied  him  to  his  door. 

"Good  night,  Mr.  Beard.  You  will  find  the  mosquito-net  at 
the  foot  of  your  bed  a  necessity.  We  are  not  so  much  troubled 
with  them  here  as  down  at  the  colony— but  they  have  a  particular 
passion  for  strangers." 

"Many  thanks  for  the  warning,  sir,"  Andrew  smiled.  "Good 

The  smiling  little  Caesar  in  black  broadcloth  passed  down  the 
long  corridor  with  a  wavering  flame  in  his  hand  and  disappeared. 
Andrew  turned  toward  his  own  door,  yawning.  A  spot  of  hot 
wax  fell  on  the  back  of  his  hand— he  swore  and  dropped  his 
candle,  which  fuffed  and  went  out.  He  groped  blindly  for  it  in 
the  sudden  pitch  a  moment  and  then  stood  up.  Another  will-o'- 
the-wisp  of  light  trembled  far  down  the  corridor,  and  came 
nearer.  He  waited— perhaps  the  Doctor  had  noted  his  misadven- 
ture and  was  coming  back  with  a  new  candle  for  him. 

The  will-o'-the-wisp  grew  and  became  a  candle  held  in  the 
hands  of  a  girl.  For  a  moment  he  thought,  with  a  beat  in  his 
heart,  that  it  might  be  Sparta  Gentian,  but  it  was  not.  This  girl 
seemed  about  Miss  Gentian's  age  and  height  but  the  faint,  decep- 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

tive  flame  she  carried  illuminated  dark  brows  and  darker  eyes, 
a  skin  tinctured  with  the  sun,  a  mouth  ripened  by  it.  Seen  thus, 
in  a  weak  halo  of  light  which  defined  no  more  than  head  and 
shoulders  and  hands,  the  features  were  startlingly  like  those  of 
some  worn  young  Madonna  of  olivewood  in  the  stone  niche  of 
a  Spanish  church,  and  Andrew  excused  himself  easily  enough 
for  watching  from  his  dark  doorway. 

No,  she  was  not  beautiful  as  Sparta  Gentian  was,  in  the  way 
of  a  golden  rose,  but  she  had  her  qualities.  The  face  was  at  once 
more  reticent  and  more  untamed— the  manner  had  an  odd  dignity 
as  of  one  who  lives  in  oppression  but  is  not  afraid.  He  thought 
of  the  Spanish  bayonet,  in  flower  in  Judge  Willo's  garden,  under 
the  swimming  moon.  Then  he  realized  with  a  little  shock,  as  the 
girl  drew  nearer,  that  from  her  dress  she  must  be  a  servant  in 
the  house,  and  stepped  forward  abruptly  to  borrow  light  from 
her  taper. 

"Can  you—"  he  began,  but  got  no  further,  for  the  girl  saw 
him  suddenly,  cried  out,  and  dropped  her  candle,  which  went 
out  instantly,  leaving  the  corridor  a  pit  of  black  velvet.  He  heard 
footsteps  running  away  from  him  and  called  again,  but  there 
was  no  reply.  He  stayed  futilely  in  the  corridor  for  some  time, 
cursing  himself  for  forgetting  that  any  serving-wench  might  well 
be  frightened  at  a  strange  voice  speaking  suddenly  out  of  gloom, 
and  waiting  for  sounds  that  would  tell  him  his  idiocy  had  aroused 
the  house.  But  the  running  footsteps  ceased  after  a  brief  moment 
as  if  they  had  plunged  into  quicksand,  and  were  followed  by  no 
sound  at  all.  At  first  he  was  more  than  glad  of  this— then  the 
continued  quiet  began  to  finger  at  his  spine. 

The  girl  had  made  noise  enough  to  wake  any  ordinary  set  of 
sleepers,  yet  no  one  seemed  to  have  stirred.  And  why  had  she 
cried  out  just  once,  when  he  first  spoke  to  her  and  not  again— 
a  frightened  maid  in  most  houses  would  have  screamed  her  throat 
dry.  He  stood  uneasily  in  his  doorway  till  doing  so  began  to  seem 
ridiculous,  of  a  sudden  feeling  insecure  and  a  stranger  in  a  soft 
-and  hostile  night.  Then  he  went  into  his  room  and  shut  his  door 
very  carefully  as  if  to  shut  out  entirely  the  deeper  darkness  in 
the  corridor.  But  he  had  an  uncanny  feeling  that  it  seeped  in  after 
him,  and  would  have  given  a  gold  Johannes  to  be  able  to  find  his 
tinder-box.  Presently,  though,  his  eyes  became  more  accustomed 
to  the  gloom.  He  thought  of  the  clear  stream  of  Sparta  Gentian's 


Spanish  Bayonet 

voice  as  it  flowed  over  golden  sand  in  "Beauty  Retire"  and 
hummed  to  himself  as  he  undressed  in  the  dark. 


The  morning  was  so  bright  and  calm,  that  he  could  afford  to 
laugh  at  his  fears  of  the  night.  He  found  one  of  the  light  striped- 
cotton  suits  that  Mr.  Windlestraw  at  the  Sign  of  the  Needle  and 
Shears  had  assured  him  were  all  the  fashion  in  the  Southern 
Colonies  and  put  it'on.  From  his  window  he  could  see  Dr.  Gen- 
tian walking  about  his  garden.  The  merry-mouthed  Doctor 
seemed  all  content  this  morning,  he  was  whistling  a  tune  as  he 
walked  and  now  and  then  paused  to  smell  at  a  flower  or  chirrup 
to  a  bird.  He  wore  a  broad  leaf-hat  and  a  flowered  dressing-gown 
and  looked  more  comfortably  like  the  planter  of  Andrew's 
imagination.  When  Andrew  bade  him  good  morning,  he  found 
him  observing  a  hedged-in  patch  of  cactus  on  which  tiny,  red 
and  brown  insects  crawled  like  baby  lady  bugs. 

"Observe  an  industry  that  shames  lazy  fellows  like  you  and 
myself,  Mr.  Beard,"  he  called  gayly  as  Andrew  came  up  to 
him.  "Those  are  cochineal  insects— they  have  but  two  ends  in 
life— to  eat  and  make  dye  for  our  garments.  I  am  experimenting 
with  them  now— perhaps  next  year  we  can  produce  the  dye  in 
quantities  worth  your  London  merchants'  notice.  Strange,  is  it 
not,  that  a  little  bug  should  carry  royal  colors  in  its  belly?" 

He  delicately  shook  a  few  of  the  insects  in  his  cupped  palm 
and  extended  it  for  Andrew's  inspection.  They  ran  about  it 
like  tiny  drops  of  blood,  in  an  intent,  blind  busyness.  Andrew 
looked  at  them  with  interest,  feeling  it  strange  that  they  did  not 
stain  the  Doctor's  white  hand.  The  man  was  certainly  a  com- 
pound of  the  most  diverse  interests.  Now  one  of  the  insects 
fell  from  the  enclosing  hand.  The  Doctor  set  his  foot  on  it,  idly. 
Andrew  shivered. 

"After  breakfast  you  shall  make  the  grand  tour  of  our  settle- 
ment," promised  the  Doctor,  replacing  the  other  insects  on  their 
fleshy  green  feeding-place  with  exquisite  care. 

Two  things  stuck  in  Andrew's  mind  particularly  from  that 
first  confused  trip  of  inspection— the  babbling  sound  of  water 
in  the  network  of  irrigation-canals  that  made  New  Sparta  like 
a  tropical  Venice  of  palmetto  and  coquina— and  the  stink  of  the 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

rotting  indigo  in  the  great  vats  in  the  fields  where  it  was  steeped 
and  beaten  and  settled.  He  had  never  encountered  such  an  over- 
powering and  all-pervasive  stench  or  such  clouds  of  flies.  "You 
may  understand  now,  why  my  own  house  is  built  some  distance 
from  the  fields,"  said  the  Doctor,  offering  Andrew  the  gilt 
pomander  he  carried  in  his  hand,  and  Andrew,  putting  it  grate- 
fully to  his  nose,  understood  indeed. 

"I  don't  see  how  your  men  endure  it,"  he  confessed. 

"Oh— they  grow  accustomed,"  said  the  Doctor,  carelessly.  He 
addressed  a  question  in  lilting  Italian  to  a  bronzed  statue  whose 
naked  neck  crawled  with  flies.  The  statue  grinned  nervously  with 
white  teeth  and  replied. 

"He  says  it  stinks  no  worse  than  a  Minorcan,"  translated  the 
Doctor,  smiling.  "You  would  think  that  when  men  came  to  a 
new  country  they  might  give  up  the  narrower  prejudices  of 
race— but  not  so.  My  Italians  hate  my  Minorcans  and  my  Greeks 
hate  them  both.  There  is  always  bad  blood  between  one  or  the 
other.  Of  course  they  intermarry,  too,  but  that  only  makes  things 

He  spoke  casually,  as  of  a  herd  of  serviceable  but  unruly  ani- 
mals, and  Andrew  sympathized  with  him.  The  headship  of  a 
mixed  colony  such  as  this,  must  be  a  constant  balancing  upon 
thorns,  though  the  Doctor  did  not  seem  bowed  down.  He  walked 
among  his  men  with  the  easy  grace  of  a  beast-tamer,  and  yet, 
Andrew  noticed,  with  the  same  alert  and  penetrating  eye. 

"But  which  are  the  Minorcans?"  said  Andrew,  vaguely  look- 
ing for  some  odd,  distinctive  type  of  body  or  skull,  as  they 
passed  along. 

The  Doctor  smiled.  "There  is  one,"  he  said,  pointing.  "That 
fellow  testing  the  vat.  I  forget  his  name." 

Andrew  looked.  Four  men  with  their  trousers  rolled  above 
their  knees  and  their  legs  stained  with  dye-water  were  churning 
the  liquor  in  the  beating-vat  with  a  lever  that  had  two  bottom- 
less square  buckets  at  either  end;  and  a  younger  man,  at  the  side, 
was  stooping  over  occasionally  to  dip  out  some  of  the  liquor  in 
a  wooden  cup  and  test  it.  Andrew  caught  his  breath  as  he  looked 
at  this  man;  he  thought  he  had  never  seen  so  fine  a  human  crea- 
ture. The  fellow  was  of  the  middle  height  and  seemed  of 
Andrew's  years— but  so  perfectly  and  aptly  proportioned  was 
he  that  Andrew  felt  himself  clumsy  and  rudely-fashioned  in  com- 


Spanish  Bayonet 

parison.  The  sun,  which  had  fairly  blackened  the  skins  of  many 
of  the  colonists,  had  only  browned  him  to  the  deep  tawniness  of 
fine  Spanish  leather,  his  face  wore  the  aloof  dignity  of  a  sombre 
prince,  and  every  movement  of  his  body  was  as  deft  as  a  gym- 
nast's. Andrew  could  have  visualized  him  far  more  easily  dispens- 
ing justice  from  a  stone  chair  of  state  or  riding  a  horse  to  war 
clad  in  antique  armor,  than  stirring  indigo-muck.  He  said  some- 
thing of  the  sort. 

"A  good  man,  though  sullen  like  most  of  them,"  Dr.  Gentian 
agreed.  "All  the  Mahonese  are  a  fine-looking  lot.  Meaninglessly 
fine.  The  Greeks  are  much  sharper.  But  that  fellow  knows  his 
business.  Few  of  them  can  judge  a  test  rightly— and  judgment's 
the  secret  of  indigo-culture— for  if  the  beating  and  churning  there 
is  stopped  too  soon  some  of  the  dye-matter  stays  in  solution  and 
if  beat  too  long  it  begins  to  dissolve  again.  Either  way  you  get 
bad  indigo.  This  is  the  second  cutting  now— we  hope  for  five 
cuttings  this  season  if  all  goes  well.  The  profit  will  mean  we  can 
finish  our  fort  and  add  to  the  sugar-works.  The  fort  will  lie 
over  there— it  commands  the  wharves  and  the  storehouses—" 

Andrew  looked  across  fields  checkered  with  irrigation  and  be- 
held vast  raw  foundations  of  coquina. 

"I  should  not  have  thought  you  needed  so  large  a  defensive 
work  in  a  peaceable  colony,"  he  said,  somewhat  astonished.  He 
had  already  noted  the  colony's  guard-house  with  its  garrison  of 
eight  bored  soldiers— but  this  new  work  would  hold  a  company, 
at  least,  and  was  planned  for  cannon. 

"We  had  trouble  here  two  years  ago,"  said  Dr.  Gentian  briefly. 
"The  ringleaders  were  hanged  in  St.  Augustine.  And  then— most 
of  the  Indians  are  peaceable  enough— but  Cowkeeper,  the  Creek 
Chief,  is  a  mischief-maker.  Ah,  Mr.  Cave,"  as  a  heavy-set  man 
in  his  thirties,  with  a  red,  sweating  face  and  odd,  crumpled-look- 
ing ears,  came  toward  them  with  his  broad  hat  in  his  hand. 

"This  is  Mr.  Beard,  Mr.  Cave— the  young  gentleman  I  was 
speaking  of  before  I  went  to  St.  Augustine.  Mr.  Cave,  our  chief 
overseer,  Mr.  Beard—" 

"Servant,  I'm  sure,"  grunted  Mr.  Cave  in  a  piggy  voice  and 
stared  at  Andrew  intently.  His  eyes  w«re  a  dull,  hard  blue,  with 
reddened  rings  about  them,  and  Andrew  felt  uncomfortable 
under  their  gaze. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Mr.  Cave  comes  from  an  English  family,"  said  Dr.  Gentian 
pleasantly.  "He  is  my  right  hand." 

He  laid  his  fingers  on  Mr.  Cave's  bare  forearm,  as  if  in  ac- 
knowledgment of  Mr.  Cave's  abilities,  and  Andrew  saw  the 
muscles  twitch  an  instant  under  that  light  touch. 

"Dr.  Gentian's  very  kind,"  said  Mr.  Cave  defiantly.  "He  knows 
how  to  treat  a  man,  Dr.  Gentian  does." 

"Mr.  Cave  flatters  me  sadly,"  said  the  Doctor,  sniffing  his 
pomander.  "He  is  aware  how  indispensable  he  is  to  us  all.  You 
and  Mr.  Cave  must  be  better  acquainted,  Mr.  Beard.  We  must 
have  Mr.  Cave  to  supper— tonight,  perhaps,"  he  continued  re- 
flectively. "Will  you  sup  with  us  tonight,  Mr.  Cave?" 

"Thank  you  sir.  You're  very  kind  indeed,"  said  Mr.  Cave, 
again  with  that  strange  rebelliousness  in  his  voice.  Andrew 
thought  him  a  queer,  ungenteel  sort  of  person  and  wondered  at 
the  Doctor's  tolerance  of  his  eccentricities.  But  doubtless  he  made 
a  good  chief-overseer. 

"And,  by  the  way,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  amiably,  "you  must 
be  provided  with  a  body-servant,  Mr.  Beard— I  grieve  I  did  not 
think  of  it  before.  Perhaps  Mr.  Cave  would  recommend  us  one. 
Shall  it  be  a  Greek,  Mr.  Cave— or  an  Italian— or  one  of  your 
favorite  Mahonese?" 

"Don't  ask  me,  sir,"  growled  Mr.  Cave  with  a  bull-like  shake 
of  his  head.  "They  all  look  alike  to  me— the  lot  of  them.  Not 
one  of  them's  worth  a  sucked  sugar  cane,  if  you  want  my  advice." 

"Come,  come,  Mr.  Cave,  we  must  not  belittle  our  good 
colonists,"  said  the  Doctor  in  light  reproof  that  made  Mr.  Cave's 
muscles  twitch  anew.  He  turned  to  Andrew.  "What  preference 
have  you,  Mr.  Beard?" 

"I  am  confident  that  anyone  Mr.  Cave  recommends,"  said 
Andrew,  a  little  puzzled.  Mr.  Cave  gave  a  brief,  uncivil  bark  of 
laughter.  "But  I  did  not  understand— I  thought  they  were  all 
free  colonists— I  mean— I  did  not  think  they  would  be  willing  to 
do  body-service  for  a—" 

"Oh,  we'll  have  no  trouble  with  that,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  briskly. 
"All  free  colonists,  of  course— but  lazy  fellows,  you  know,  Mr. 
Beard— lazy  fellows  like  most  of  us—"  he  chirruped  in  tones  of 
mock  condemnation.  "Any  one  of  them  would  be  only  too  glad 
to  get  out  of  the  fields  for  a  while  and  take  life  easy  in  the  cool 
of  the  big  house.  I  admit  it  was  not  my  first  intention  to  use  them 


Spanish  Bayonet 

for  such  work.  I  had  a  shipload  of  Negroes  on  the  way—but  the 
ship  was  wrecked,"  he  sighed,  "and  the  sea  ate  up  my  poor 
blackamoors—a  pity— a  great  pity— I've  not  felt  justified  in  ex- 
pending further  monies  on  slaves  since  then,  so  we've  had  to 
scratch  along  as  best  we  cotfld.  By  the  way,"  he  continued  airily, 
"I  understand  you  had  an  encounter  with  my  daughter's  maid  last 
night— she's  a  Mahonese." 

"I  beg  to  assure  you  sir— it  was  very  clumsy  of  me—"  said 
Andrew,  flushing. 

"Not  at  all,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  "don't  trouble  your  mind  with 
it  further,  I  beg  of  you.  The  poor  silly  girl  was  frightened  and 
took  you  for  a  ghost— they're  very  superstitious.  I  assure  you  she 
won't  behave  in  such  a  foolish  manner  again."  He  tapped  his 
pomander  and  looked  at  Andrew. 

"A  hot,  dogged  wench— that  Minorca  piece,"  said  Mr.  Cave 
with  ugly  abruptness,  and  Andrew  decided  then  and  there  that 
he  definitely  disliked  Mr.  Cave. 

His  behavior  at  supper  that  evening  did  not  make  Andrew  like 
him  any  better,  though  it  did  produce  a  certain  tinge  of  con- 
temptuous pity  for  him.  The  man  fumbled  absurdly  with  his 
food,  through  the  meal,  in  a  dour  silence,  his  reddened  brow  bent 
on  his  plate,  in  spite  of  all  the  genial  Doctor's  attempts  to  draw 
him  out.  Occasionally  he  would  steal  a  queer,  hostile  glance  at 
Miss  Gentian  and  address  a  few  loutish  words  to  her  to  be  repaid 
with  an  iced  gentility.  Andrew  could  not  blame  Miss  Gentian 
for  her  aloofness,  but  he  felt  sorry  for  Mr.  Cave  nevertheless.  He 
himself  was  in  fine  feather  and  described  the  hanging  of  Lieutenant 
Governor  Golden  in  effigy,  during  the  Stamp  Act  riots,  with  the 
devil  whispering  in  his  ear,  and  the  unparalleled  musical  clock 
but  recently  exhibited  in  Hull's  assembly  rooms,  in  a  manner  to 
win  the  concerted  smiles  of  both  the  Gentian  ladies. 

After  supper  they  retired  to  the  drawing  room  again,  and 
again  Sparta  Gentian's  voice  breathed  gold  through  a  crystal 
instrument  in  the  strains  of  "Beauty  Retire."  The  occasion  was 
marred  for  Andrew  only  by  the  fact  that  Mr.  Cave  had  obviously 
taken  too  much  wine  in  the  interval  before  joining  the  ladies, 
and  now  sat  in  a  brooding,  red-browed  silence  like  a  stupefied 
bear,  with  his  drooping-lidded  eyes  stupidly  intent  upon  Sparta 
Gentian's  averted  face.  When  the  song  was  ended  he  got  up 
abruptly,  almost  overturning  his  chair,  and  without  a  word  went 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

over  to  the  open  window  at  the  other  end  of  the  room  and 
remained  standing  there  with  his  back  to 'the  company. 

Andrew  seemed  to  read  a  message  in  Dr.  Gentian's  face—he 
rose  too,  and  went  over  to  the  window  himself.  He  stood  for  a 
moment  at  Mr.  Cave's  side— the  mian  was  staring  out  into  darkness 
and  did  not  notice  him.  Then  he  laid  his  hand  lightly  on  Mr. 
Cave's  arm  to  attract  his  attention,  as  he  had  seen  Dr.  Gentian 
do  that  morning. 

All  Mr.  Cave's  stolid  composure  dropped  from  him  on  the 

"Don't  touch  me!"  he  said  in  a  fierce  whisper,  shaking  off 
Andrew's  hand  as  if  it  stung  him,  "Don't  touch  me,  I  tell  you!" 

"But  my  dear  sir—"  said  Andrew  astounded.  Then  he  paused, 
for  he  had  seen  the  man's  eyes,  and  the  watery  madness  in  them. 
For  an  instant  Andrew  felt  on  his  body  the  impact  of  a  blow  that 
was  not  given— a  blow  like  a  hammerstroke.  Then  the  bloody 
color  died  from  Mr.  Cave's  eyes  and  his  mouth  ceased  to  quiver 
like  an  angry  child's. 

"I— I  am  very  sorry,  Mr.  Beard,"  he  said,  recovering  himself 
with  visible  effort,  "the  heat— and  Miss  Gentian's  singing— I  am 
not  very  well  with  the  heat  and  I— I  cannot  endure  to  have  a 
stranger  touch  me  suddenly— don't  think  too  hardly  of  me  be- 
cause of  it,  Mr.  Beard—" 

He  was  almost  fawning  now.  Andrew  did  not  know  which 
aspect  of  the  man  he  found  more  distasteful— the  sudden,  lunatic 
rage  of  a  minute  ago  or  this  present  and  horrible  obsequiousness. 

"Pray  think  no  more  of  it,"  said  Andrew,  haughtily,  trying 
to  copy  Dr.  Gentian's  tone,  "Miss  Gentian  is  about  to  sing  again 
—shall  we  hear  her?"  He  led  the  way  back  into  the  room.  But 
he  was  relieved  when,  after  Mr.  Cave  had  taken  his  bearish  de- 
parture, Dr.  Gentian  explained  the  reason  for  his  singular  be- 

"You  have  my  thanks  for  treating  Mr.  Cave  so  courteously," 
he  said  gravely.  "A  strange,  bitter  creature,  Cave— but  loyal  and 
devoted,  so  we  must  put  up  with  his  strangeness."  He  lowered  his 
voice,  "He  comes  of  good  enough  stock— but  you  see  it's  by  the 
left  hand— and  that  frets  him,  whenever  he's  in  company." 

"If  he  had  his  rights  he'd  be  rich.  Rich,"  said  Sparta  Gentian 
suddenly  in  her  thrilling  voice. 

"You  were  going  to  play  us  something  of  Handel's,  my  dear," 


Spanish  Bayonet 

said  her  father,  and  the  girl  turned  back  to  the  forte-piano  with 
an  impatient  jerk  of  her  head.  Under  cover  of  the  music,  Dr. 
Gentian  went  on  in  snatches. 

"I  found  him  in  London—what  an  exquisite  passage,  my  pet- 
very  bitter  against  the  world.  Well,  I'd  known  his  father.  A  hard 
man.  I  thought  perhaps  in  a  country  where  nobody  knew  the 
story— but  I  fear  the  wound  is  too  old  and  deep.  One  cannot 
blame  him  too  much.  In  his  place,  who  would  not  be  strange?  Ah, 
bravo,  daughter!"  and  he  clapped  his  hands. 

Surely,  thought  Andrew,  here  was  a  gentleman  of  the  most 
comprehensive  benevolence  and  understanding,  and  as  he  looked 
at  the  beauty  of  Sparta  Gentian's  face,  a  little  flushed  now  from 
the  exertion  of  playing,  he  resolved  that-  the  morrow  would  find 
him  more  than  courteous  to  unlucky  Mr.  Cave. 

The  morrow  came—and  other  morrows.  A  month  slipped  down 
the  curve  of  the  year  without  Andrew's  realizing  how  quickly  it 
had  vanished— the  indigo  was  in  its  third  cutting— then  in  its 
fourth.  Soon  it  was  time  for  hoarfrost  to  whiten  the  doorstep  of 
the  house  on  Wall  Street  and  autumn  to  gild  and  redden  the  trees 
on  the  Boston  road.  Here  it  was  hard  to  believe  in  snow  feathering 
from  a  leaden  caldron  of  sky  and  the  cries  of  skaters  on  the  black 
ice  of  Lispenard's  Pond.  The  news  from  the  North  was  scant 
and  disturbing,  but  its  message,  to  Andrew,  very  tiny  and  far 
away,  a  troubled  voice  hardly  heard  through  heavy  glass,  the 
faint  disturbance  of  cannon  and  drums  on  a  ship  anchored  be- 
yond the  horizon. 

The  tea-ships  had  been  sent  back  from  New  York  in  orderly 
protest— ships  along  the  Northern  seaboard  hoisted  their  colors 
at  halfmast  when  the  news  of  the  closing  of  the  port  of  Boston 
came,  and  in  Philadelphia,  the  bells  of  the  churches  were  muf- 
fled and  tolled  all  day.  In  the  city  Andrew  had  left,  the  Com- 
mittee of  Fifty-One  was  organized  and  began  to  quarrel  internally 
at  once.  The  call  for  the  First  Continental  Congress  went  forth, 
and  from  all  the  colonies  but  Georgia  the  delegates  began  to 
assemble.  Dust-powdered  riders  jogged  along  bad  roads,  north 
and  south,  to  Philadelphia— John  Adams  and  the  other  delegates 
from  defiant  Massachusetts  were  received  along  their  way  with 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

the  state  and  circumstance  of  dukes  ot  convicted  felons.  The  Con- 
gress sat  and  deliberated— adopted  a  declaration  of  rights— resolved 
to  import  no  British  merchandise  after  the  first  of  December- 
ended  with  a  stately  but  ineffective  petition  to  the  king.  John 
Adams  found  the  Philadelphia  ladies  charming  but  deplored  the 
general  extravagance  of  the  city— the  Congress  dissolved,  to  meet 
again  the  following  May,  having  made  its  gesture. 

A  cloud  formed  in  the  sky  and  grew— behind  it  a  masked  and 
indifferent  figure  of  chaos  sharpened  certain  lightnings  and  saw 
that  his  thunders  were  in  voice.  But  cloud  and  figure  were  alike 
unperceived  by  the  plump,  stupid  king  who  still  thought  of  his 
obedient  subjects  of  New  York  Colony,  and  by  those  subjects 
who  still  stood  ready  to  drink  his  health  in  broken  glass  on  his 
birthday  and  wish  him  better  advised.  Only  Chatham  in  the  in- 
creasing weakness  of  his  age  saw  a  little— and  a  few  men  in 
America  who  had  helped  push  a  stone  to  the  edge  of  a  steep  slope, 
perceived  now  where  that  bounding  missile  would  strike  in  the 
valley,  and  caught  their  breath.  But  Andrew  was  not  one  of 
those  few. 

He  was  honestly  concerned  at  the  tone  of  his  father's  letters, 
however.  At  first  they  were  stiff  and  a  little  magniloquent,  now 
they  grew  hasty  and  brief,  with  odd  gaps  in  them  as  if  the  writer 
were  too  constantly  fretted  in  mind  to  drive  quill  along  paper 
for  long  at  a  time.  One  strange,  sparse  missive  had  come  from 
Lucius— he  had  left  the  house  on  Wall  Street  and  the  business  of 
Alexander  Beard  and  Son,  and  remained  Andrew's  affectionate 
brother,  with  no  address.  Andrew  had  written  him  at  once,  asking 
for  the  details  of  the  estrangement,  but  had  got  no  reply  except 
a  bundle  of  the  more  violent  manifestoes  of  the  Sons  of  Liberty, 
which  he  had  read  with  a  queer  detachment.  Lucius'  name 
dropped  abruptly  out  of  his  father's  letters  and  was  not  alluded 
to  again,  while  every  letter  was  full  of  eager,  almost  querulous 
queries  as  to  the  details  of  plantation-management.  Andrew  pic- 
tured his  father  as  a  man  at  sword's-points  with  an  invisible 
enemy,  forced  back  and  back  into  a  shadow.  He  took  his  cour- 
age in  both  hands  and  wrote  him  formally  for  permission  to  come 
home— sons  did  that,  then.  But  the  letter  he  got  in  answer  was 
even  briefer  and  stranger  than  the  rest,  and  adjured  Andrew,  by 
every  tie  of  filial  duty,  to  remain  where  he  was  for  a  time.  "My 
dear  Son— I  implore  you  by  all  I  hold  most  holy  to  remain  yet  a 


Spanish  Bayonet 

while  in  the  Floridas— I  have  reasons  for  this  request  you  know 
not  of,  my  Dear  Son— and  if  you  would  be  the  Staff  of  my  Age, 
I  conjure  you  to  obey  me  in  this—.  Your  Mother  is  not  Well 
and  I  am  everywhere  beset  by  difficulty—" 

So  it  ran,  in  part,  and  Andrew,  perplexed  and  sorry,  could  not 
but  obey.  Besides,  there  were  other  reasons  for  his  staying.  He 
had  fallen  deeply  in  love  with  Sparta  Gentian  and  as  deeply  in 
hate  with  the  uncouth  Mr.  Cave. 

The  first  complete  passion  of  the  heart  may  be  written  in 
water  for  its  permanency,  but  it  leaves  a  cicatrice  few  care  to 
have  the  wind  blow  on,  even  when  iron  has  grown  over  the  scar. 
Andrew  had  known  women  before,  or  their  flesh,  as  a  part  of  his 
coming  of  age— a  circumstance  of  as  definite,  physical  importance 
as  the  acquisition  of  a  new  watch  by  Green  of  London  or  the 
ability  to  curse  a  servant  adequately.  But  the  fashionable  bawdy- 
house  by  the  docks  which  he  had  visited  a  trifle  shrinkingly  in 
Lucius'  company,  with  its  ton  of  syrup-voiced  female  meat 
who  rapped  her  trollops7  knuckles  with  an  iron  key-ring  to  make 
them  be  civil  to  the  young  gentlemen,  had  as  little  to  do  with  this 
present  fever  as  the  stiff  exchange  of  high  compliment  with  suit- 
ably marriageable  daughters,  minikin-mouthed,  in  green  lutestring 
gowns.  This  was  burning  and  ague  at  once,  an  arrow  in  the 
veins,  a  bitter  gold  in  the  mind. 

He  had  realized  it  first  some  weeks  ago,  overseeing  a  gang  of 
Greeks  sickle  the  tall  indigo  with  shining,  leisurely  strokes  while 
the  flies  buzzed  and  the  mown  swathe  gave  out  a  scent  of  crushed 
herb.  An  incongruous  moment,  but  most  high  moments  are  in- 
congruous. Something  had  passed  before  his  eyes  like  the  shadow 
of  a  sea-gull  in  flight;  then  he  knew;  and  the  rest  of  the  after- 
noon he  had  let  his  Greeks  soldier  as  they  would,  while  he  stared 
at  a  visionary  image  through  eyes  that  saw  the  field  he  stood  in 
and  the  men  who  worked  in  that  field  as  meaningless  silhouettes 
cut  out  of  colored  paper. 

Then  he  went  back  to  the  house  and,  after  washing  the  smell  of 
the  fields  from  his  body  with  unusual  thoroughness,  descended 
to  supper  and  was  tongue-tied  and  inept  whenever  he  looked  at 
Sparta.  But  gradually  the  first  sheer  bedazzlement  passed,  and 
he  began  to  think  and  suffer. 

He  was  so  thoroughly  acclimated  to  New  Sparta  by  now  that 
at  times  it  seemed  as  if  he  never  had  led  any  other  life.  He  could 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

test  the  indigo  in  the  beating  vats  as  expertly  as  Dr.  Gentian 
himself;  and  knew  why  no  sun  must  fall  upon  it  while  it  lies  in 
the  drying-shed;  and  the  differences  between  the  light,  pure 
indigo  called  flotant  or  flora,  the  gorge-de-pigeon  sort,  and  the 
copper-colored,  heavier  stuff  that  is  used  for  dyeing  woolens  and 
the  coarser  fabrics.  The  smell  of  the  rotting  plant  no  longer  re- 
volted him,  he  had  become  inured  to  it,  and  ii  not  inured,  accus- 
tomed at  least  to  the  mosquitoes  and  flies  in  the  fields. 

He  had  long  ago  acquired  his  body-servant— a  slim,  silent,  olive 
Minorcan  lad  with  melancholy  eyes.  Also,  he  had  begun  to  take  a 
considerable  interest  in  many  of  the  other  men  and  see  the  colony 
much  more  clearly  as  a  whole.  Some  things  he  saw  made  him 
wince— but  it  was  a  hard-handed  age,  and  he  gradually  fell  into 
the  way  men  have  of  overlooking  little  uncomfortable  incidents 
that  would  have  given  him  pause  six  months  before.  Whatever 
happened,  Dr.  Gentian  was  never  to  blame.  The  Doctor  could 
not  be  everywhere,  and  if,  occasionally  he  seemed  to  overlook 
occurrences  that  made  Andrew  hot  behind  the  eyes,  the  abun- 
dant, evident  prosperity  of  the  settlement  was  ample  testimony 
for  the  general  wisdom  and  justice  of  his  policy.  Besides,  and 
always  now,  he  was  Sparta's  father. 

Mr.  Cave,  though,  was  a  brute  and  an  unpleasant  one.  In 
regard  to  him,  Andrew  could  not  but  feel  that  Dr.  Gentian 
carried  a  point  of  generosity  too  far.  The  friction  between  him- 
self and  Mr.  Cave  had  begun  the  very  morning  after  the  scene 
between  them  at  the  window.  Mr.  Cave  was  giving  him  his  first 
lesson  in  the  ways  of  the  plantation,  and  Andrew  had  certainly 
intended  all  scrupulous  courtesy  towards  him.  But  after  an  hour 
or  so  of  contemptuous,  ursine  explanations  on  Mr.  Cave's  part  and 
eager  questions  on  Andrew's,  Mr.  Cave  stopped  suddenly  as  they 
were  crossing  a  field  together. 

"What  did  he  tell  you  about  me,  last  night,  after  I  was  gone, 
hey?"  he  said  hoarsely,  jerking  his  thumb  in  the  general  direction 
of  the  great  house. 

Andrew  felt  trapped.  "I  do  not  recall  that  we  discussed  any 
one  of  your  qualities  in  particular,"  he  said  finally.  The  man 
galled  him,  but  he  was  resolved  to  be  civil. 

"Qualities!"  said  Mr.  Cave,  scornfully.  "Qualities,  hell.  He  told 
you  I  was  a  bastard—didn't  he  now?  A  London  lawyer's  bastard 


Spanish  Bayonet 

without  even  a  decent  name  to  his  back?"  His  voice  was  vinegary. 
He  looked  Andrew  up  and  down  with  red,  peering  eyes. 

"I  assure  you  Mr.  Cave,"  said  Andrew,  still  grasping  at  civility, 
"that  even  if  Dr.  Gentian  did  happen  to  refer  to  the— the  unhappy 
circumstances  of  your  birth—" 

"Listen  to  me!"  said  Mr.  Cave  with  sudden  violence,  "You 
can't  talk  fine  to  me— I  don't  want  any  of  your  stinking  New 
York  sop!  Fm  a  bastard,  all  right— I  knew  he'd  tell  you— well, 
if  I  am—"  he  beat  his  fist  in  his  palm,  "I  don't  want  any  damn 
cocked-hat  pity  from  you  or  him  neither— savvy?  I  take  care  of 
myself— savvy?  I  could  stake  the  two  of  you  out  in  the  sun  to 
dry  there  for  boucan— savvy?  All  right— now  you  go  and  snigger 
about  me  with  him  over  your  wine  as  much  as  you  damn  well 
want  to!" 

The  hoarse,  brief  explosion  of  his  rage  left  Andrew  stunned  for 
an  instant.  He  felt  as  if  he  had  stretched  out  his  hand  in  the  dark 
and  put  it  upon  a  toad. 

"Oh— go  to  the  devil!"  he  said,  rather  impotently,  and  started 
to  walk  away  in  a  fog  of  anger.  But  already  the  man's  fit  had 
passed  and  he  was  running  after  him  with  apologies. 

"Mr.  Beard!  Mr.  Beard!  I  didn't  mean  anything,  sir— I  swear 
I  didn't!  I  get  a  fit  like  that  every  now  and  then— Dr.  Gentian 
knows  it— he  never  pays  any  attention  to  it.  You  aren't  going 
to  tell  nim,  Mr.  Beard?  You  aren't  going  to—" 

The  tawdry  tears  were  actually  running  down  his  cheeks.  It 
took  some  time  for  Andrew,  loathing  them  both,  to  quiet  him 
with  promises  and  assurances.  Then  the  man  relapsed  into  his 
usual  heavy  sullenness  and  the  tour  of  instruction  proceeded.  But 
even  the  crowded  months  since  then  had  not  been  able  to  ob- 
literate the  shoddy  scene  from  Andrew's  memory. 

Then  there  was  the  time,  a  month  or  so  later,  when  Mr.  Cave 
had  been  about  to  take  the  whip  to  the  Minorcan.  The  Minorcan 
was  the  fine-looking  fellow  whom  Andrew  had  noticed  on  his 
first  day  at  New  Sparta,  and  Andrew  had  stopped  the  projected 
whipping  in  short  order,  for  he  was  used  to  his  work  by  then,  and 
conscious  of  Dr.  Gentian's  favor.  But  again,  he  would  not  easily 
forget  the  Minorcan's  clenched  face  as  Mr.  Cave  had  whistled 
the  rawhide  lash  in  his  hands  in  preparation  to  strike,  nor  Mr. 
Cave's  dull  fury  when  Andrew  had  intervened. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

That  matter  had  gone  up  to  Dr.  Gentian  and  Mr.  Cave  had 
been  cautioned,  though,  as  Dr.  Gentian  explained,  there  were 
times  when  the  whip— "A  new  colony  must  live  its  first  decade 
under  what,  to  all  purposes,  is  martial  law,  Mr.  Beard,  if  it  is  to 
survive.  Take  away  the  punitive  power— even  the  power  of  life 
and  death—from  its  governors  and— well,  you've  heard  of  the 
first  days  at  Jamestown—" 

Andrew  agreed.  Dr.  Gentian,  as  usual,  had  reason  and  experi- 
ence on  his  side.  But  he  thought  Mr.  Cave  should  be  discharged 
and  said  so. 

"Some  time,  perhaps— if  I  could  find  him  another  post,"  mused 
Dr.  Gentian,  gravely.  "But  just  now— well— we  are  short  of  men, 
Mr.  Beard,  and  after  all,  if  I  did  discharge  him,  where  would  the 
wretched  fellow  go?  I  could  not  turn  him  out  naked  to  pig  it 
with  the  Indians." 

Andrew  saw  the  justice  of  that,  and  the  air  cleared  again.  At 
least,  he  thought,  the  incident  had  been  of  some  value,  for  it 
won  him  the  friendship  of  the  Minorcan  concerned  and  he  began 
to  be  popular  among  the  palmetto-huts. 

The  Minorcan's  name  was  Sebastian  Zafortezas,  and  Andrew 
discovered,  with  that  curious  pleasure  the  mind  takes  in  tiny 
coincidences,  that  they  had  been  born  in  the  same  year.  He  began 
to  visit  Sebastian's  hut,  now  and  then— it  was  on  the  edge  of  the 
Minorcan  quarter  and  cleaner  and  better  kept  than  those  of  his 
Greek  neighbors.  As  the  acquaintanceship  grew,  Sebastian  began 
to  teach  him  Mahonese  Spanish— hesitatingly  at  first,  for  he  had 
only  a  little  English  to  begin  on.  But  soon  they  were  really  able 
to  talk  to  each  other— and  Andrew  began  to  learn  about  the  de- 
serted hut  near  the  Altar  of  the  Gentiles  and  the  long  sick  voyage 
from  Port  Mahon. 

Gradually,  Andrew  slipped  into  the  way  of  frequenting  Sebas- 
tian's hut  as  often  as  circumstance  allowed.  Conversation  with 
Dr.  Gentian  was  always  instructive— but  he  found  that  at  times 
he  missed  the  fellowship  of  men  near  his  own  age  more  than  he 
had  thought— and  Mr.  Cave  was  the  only  other  possibility. 
Colonial  and  Mahonese  exchanged  knives  and  minor  confidences 
and  began  to  feel  secure  in  each  other's  company.  Andrew  dis- 
covered that  Sebastian  was  passionately  fond  of  tobacco  and  re- 
paid his  language  lessons  with  pipefuls  of  rank  Virginia,  while 


Spanish  Bayonet 

the  two  chatted  and  the  blue  smoke  wavered  in  the  evening  air, 
and  the  Barbary  ape  that  Sebastian  was  so  proud  of  bringing  alive 
from  Minorca  chattered  to  itself  in  a  corner.  Andrew  thought  a 
dozen  times  of  transferring  Sebastian  from  the  fields  to  the 
coquina  house,  as  his  body  servant,  but  something  held  him  back 
—he  suspected  his  friend  of  a  pride  of  race  as  great  as  any  De 
Lancey's  and  feared  to  wound  him. 

They  were  seated  so,  one  afternoon  in  early  March  when  work 
was  over,  smoking  in  comparative  silence,  for  both  were  tired. 
Andrew  was  thinking  that  it  was  nearly  a  year  since  he  had 
sailed  from  New  York,  that  he  had  had  no  news  from  home  for 
almost  two  months  now,  and  that  the  little  hollow  at  the  base 
of  Sparta  Gentian's  throat  was  the  most  lovely  of  all  created 

He  had  long  ago  confided  his  passion  to  Sebastian  and  had 
received  a  grave,  laconic  sympathy  in  return.  Sometimes  he  won- 
dered at  himself  for  revealing  the  most  hidden  trouble  of  his 
heart  so  easily  to  a  foreign  laborer— but  that  ghost  of  snobbery 
was  quickly  laid.  His  friend  understood  him,  that  was  enough. 
But  he  wondered  sometimes,  if  he  understood  his  friend. 

The  other  had  told  him  many  things— he  could  see  the  barren 
island  of  ringdoves  and  eagles  rise  before  him  out  of  the  sea,  in 
Sebastian's  words,  like  a  city  long-drowned—he  could  hear  the 
soft  slur  of  the  dancers'  feet  in  the  rocky  streets  of  Mahon— but 
the  secret  springs  of  Sebastian's  mind  remained  unrevealed.  Oc- 
casionally, in  a  chance  word  or  a  casual  idiom,  he  could  catch  a 
glimpse  of  some  alien,  resolved  purpose,  hidden  under  the  surface 
of  Sebastian's  talk  like  the  gleam  of  a  fish,  seen  far  down,  in  very 
deep  water,  but  that  was  all.  Still,  Andrew  decided,  he  did  not 
like  Sebastian  any  the  less  for  it.  He  shook  out  the  dottel  from 
his  pipe,  stretched  his  arms,  and  spoke. 

"She  is  beautiful  as  a  golden  rose,"  he  said  in  Spanish.  "Beauti- 
ful. Is  she  not  beautiful,  my  friend?" 

Sebastian  nodded  gravely.  "All  women  are  beautiful,  but  only 
one  to  a  lover,"  he  said,  reflectively.  "It  is  well,  so.  When  do  you 
speak  to  her  father,  amigo?" 

"Soon,"  said  Andrew.  "As  soon  as  I  have  any  notion  there  is 
hope  for  me  in  her  mind." 

"You  must  serenade  her  more  often,"  said  Sebastian  smiling. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"No."  Andrew  smiled,  too.  "I  have  told  you  we  have  not  the 
custom  of  the  serenade." 

"That  is  bad,"  said  Sebastian  seriously.  "Guitar-music  comes 
like  a  child  to  a  woman's  heart—it  can  enter  where  a  man  must 
Stay  out  in  the  darkness.  I  would  get  you  a  guitar,  my  friend,  if 
you  had  need  of  it.  Tonight  is  a  night  for  love  and  the  guitar." 

"That  is  true,"  said  Andrew,  nodding.  "But  you,  Sebastian- 
how  do  you  know?  Have  you  never  been  in  love?" 

Sebastian  regarded  the  bowl  of  his  pipe. 

"Yes.  I  have  been  in  love,"  he  said. 

"But  I've  never  seen  you  with  a  girl." 

"No,"  said  Sebastian.  "You  have  never  seen  me  with  a  girl." 
His  face  was  masked. 

"And  yet—what  happened,  Sebastian?— Are  you  still,  per- 

"It  is  possible,"  said  Sebastian,  smiling.  "Let  us  talk  no  more 
of  it,  my  friend.  Let  us  talk  of  your  love  instead— and  wish  you 
good  fortune." 

Andrew  felt  rebuffed,  but  he  respected  the  other's  reticence. 
Besides,  it  was  so  very  much  more  interesting  to  pour  his  own 
doubts  and  fears  in  Sebastian's  sympathetic  ear. 

"Perhaps,  I  will  find  my  rose  tonight,"  he  said,  tossing  a  pebble 
idly  in  his  hand,  "perhaps." 

"May  you  wear  it  many  years,"  said  Sebastian  with  courteous 

"Dr.  Gentian  sets  out  for  St.  Augustine  soon,"  went  on 
Andrew,  thinking  aloud.  "He  will  be  gone  some  time.  If  I  do 
not  speak  before  then—" 

"Ah,"  said  Sebastian  and  muttered  something  to  himself  in 

"Que?"  said  Andrew,  eagerly.  He  had  not  caught  the  words. 

"I  said  nothing,"  said  Sebastian,  holding  out  his  hand  before  the 
door  of  his  hut  to  try  the  direction  of  the  wind.  "The  air  is 
heavy.  We  will  have  rain  before  morning.  Rain  and  thunder." 

"Nonsense,  Sebastian,"  said  Andrew  and  laughed.  "The  sky's 
as  clear  as  a  bell  and  it  rained  only  two  days  ago." 

''Perhaps,"  said  Sebastian,  staring  into  a  distance.  His  eyes  were 
veiled.  "But  for  all  that,  we  will  have  rain  soon  enough,  and 
thunder.  There  is  thunder  in  the  air,  my  friend— thunder  coming, 
up  from  the  sea." 


Spanish  Bayonet 


The  strangeness  of  his  friend's  last  speech  bothered  Andrew 
a  little,  on  his  way  back  to  the  house,  but  not  long.  The  gradual 
veils '  of  dusk  blue,  patched  with  silver,  that  evening  drew 
solemnly  across  the  sky  were  too  calm  and  gentle  to  be  flowered 
with  anything  more  sullen  than  the  palest  stripes  of  Spring  rain 
—a  cool  air  blew  from  the  inlet  like  a  promise  given  in  a  whisper 
—it  was,  indeed,  a  night  for  love  and  the  guitar.  Andrew  came 
up  thq  grassy  avenue  that  led  to  the  house  with  that  promise 
clutched  tight  in  his  hand  like  a  Spanish  coin. 

Tonight,  he  told  himself  as  he  had  told  himself  so  often,  he 
would  find  out  the  color  of  his  fortune,  black  or  gold.  In  the  inter- 
val after  supper,  when  the  Gentian  ladies  had  withdrawn,  he 
would  speak  to  his  surgeon  Caesar,  and  know  his  fate  there,  at 
least.  Admitted,  the  Doctor  was  too  liberal  and  modern  a  father  to 
give  away  his  daughter  against  her  will— etiquette  was  etiquette 
—and  it  must  never  be  said  in  the  Floridas  that  a  New  Yorker 
lacked  proper  punctilio.  But  even  if  the  Doctor  did  approve— 
what  or  Sparta  herself?  Andrew  sifted  a  thousand  little  incidents 
of  the  past  few  months  between  his  fingers  like  grains  of  sparkling 
sand.  Here  she  had  certainly  smiled,  yes— and  there  thanked  him 
most  graciously  for  turning  over  the  leaves  of  her  new  song.  But 
there  she  had  been  distant  as  a  ghost,  and  there  again,  definitely 
satiric.  This  balanced  that,  and  left  him  in  troubled  confusion.  He 
was  so  absorbed  in  love-stricken  calculations  that  he  nearly  ran 
into  one  of  the  servants,  on  the  stairs,  before  he  realized  where 
he  was. 

"Ten  thousand  dev— ,"  he  began,  in  irritation,  then,  seeing  it 
was  Sparta's  Minorcan  maid,  changed  his  tune  abruptly.  If  this 
girl  were  not  divinity  itself,  she  was  blessed  at  least  by  the  serv- 
ice of  divinity,  and  he  stared  at  her  hungrily,  as  if  he  expected 
to  see  a  golden  collar,  with  godhead's  name  upon  it,  around  her 
throat.  He  had  noticed  the  wench  very  little  after  that  first  awk- 
ward encounter  in  the  corridor— she  went  about  her  duties  as 
unobtrusively  as  a  spirit— but  tonight  she  seemed  to  him,  some- 
how, a  precious  object,  and  he  spoke  to  her  on  impulse. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Is  anything  wrong?"  he  said,  for  now  that  he  came  to  observe 
her,  she  seemed  more  sombre  than  usual  and  her  face  was  a  trifle 

"Nothing,  senor"  said  the  girl  quietly.  "Supper  will  be  ready 
in  half  an  hour."  She  stood  aside  for  him  to  pass.  He  lingered, 
feeling,  in  the  folly  of  a  lover,  that  her  presence  might  have  some 
sort  of  augury  for  him,  if  he  could  only  puzzle  it  out. 

"But— there  is  something  the  matter,  Caterina,"  he  went  on, 
with  vague  Iqndliness.  "You  really  look  very  tired— and  the  fever- 
season's  coming  on.  You  should  go  to  Dr.  Gentian  and  have  him 
give  you  a  powder  of  cinchona." 

"No,  gracias,  I  am  quite  well,  seiior"  said  the  girl,  and  sucked 
in  her  breath.  A  dark  glow  came  into  her  eyes  for  a  second,  like 
the  soul  of  a  flame  in  an  obscured  mirror,  and  died  again.  For 
some  reason,  Andrew  felt,  momentarily,  as  he  had  that  evening 
in  the  corridor  when  her  footsteps  had  died  away  so  suddenly 
and  left  him  alone  in  the  very  belly  of  night.  The  sensation  was 
so  acute  that  he  almost  put  out  a  hand  to  steady  himself  against 
an  assault  of  shadows.  Then  he  remembered. 

"Of  course,"  he  said  rather  aimlessly,  "of  course— but  still,  you 
don't  look  very  well,  Caterina,— and  really,  now,  if  you  went 

"I  am  quite  well,"  the  girl  repeated  steadily,  but  he  saw  a  sob 
rise  in  her  throat.  It  broke  now,  and  tore  her.  "But  the  Minorcans 
will  never  have  their  lands,  now— the  Minorcans  will  never  have 
their  lands!"  she  cried,  passionately,  in  a  deep,  shaken  voice,  and 
then  pushing  him  aside  with  a  child's  gesture  of  impotent  pain, 
ran  sobbing  down  the  stairs.  Andrew  gazed  after  her  helplessly, 
reflecting  that  Minorcans  were  very  peculiar.  One  got  just  so 
far  with  them— and  then  one  came  up  against  a  blind  wall  of 
silence  or  an  inexplicable  grief.  Her  words  were  meaningless,  of 
course,  but  coming,  as  they  did,  after  Sebastian's  talk  about  the 
thunder,  they  jarred  him  and  set  the  pattern  of  the  evening  awry. 
He  went  to  his  room  with  a  prickle  in  his  mind,  and  was  not 
pleased,  when  he  got  there,  to  hear,  through  the  open  window, 
the  mutter  of  other  voices  in  irritated  discussion. 

He  was  about  to  go  out  and  silence  the  debate— the  room  next 
his  was  a  store-room  and  generally  only  frequented  by  servants 
—when  the  voices  rose  higher,  and  he  caught  one  sentence  clearly. 

"You've  been  at  that  wench,  again,"  said  a  dry,  passionless 


Spanish  Bayonet 

accent  which  Andrew  was  horrified  to  recognize  as  Mrs.  Gen- 
tian's. "I'll  not  suffer  it,  Hilary.  I'll  not  suffer  it  any  more." 

A  low  rasping  murmur  replied.  The  other  voice  fell  to  meet 
it,  and  Andrew  found  himself  gripping  the  back  of  a  chair  with 
a  clenched  hand.  Mrs.  Gentian  was  so  taciturn  at  the  best  of 
times  that  he  had  come  to  think  of  her  as  a  statue  rather  than  a 
woman— a  statue  whose  worn,  fine  hands  busied  themselves 
interminably  with  flowers  of  lace  and  needlework,  but  whose 
memorial  mouth  was  as  dedicated  to  silence  as  the  mouth  of  a 
buried  nun.  Now,  though,  those  lips  had  opened,  and  a  voice, 
arid  and  clear  as  the  rattle  of  dry  palm-branches  in  the  wind, 
spoke  out  a  hate  so  weary  and  long  enduring  that  it  hurt  the 

Andrew  closed  the  window  as  quickly  as  he  could  but  he  could 
not  shut  out  the  sour,  tearless  repetition  of  the  words,  "I  will 
not  suffer  it,  Hilary.  I  will  not  suffer  it  again,"  or  the  hard  rasp 
of  the  Doctor's  voice  in  reply.  He  felt  very  sorry  for  Dr.  Gen- 
tian—Mrs. Gentian  had  the  wreck  of  what  must  have  been  a  great 
beauty.  The  beauty  had  gone,  but  its  jealousy,  apparently,  re- 
mained—acrid as  the  dregs  of  spoilt  incense.  Andrew  had  heard, 
in  books,  of  the  lengths  to  which  such  ingrown  jealousy  may 
lead  very  worthy  women,  and  shook  his  head  in  wise  acknowl- 
edgment of  the  strangeness  of  existence.  It  was  worse,  somehow, 
that  Sparta's  mother  should  yield  to  such  a  failing.  He  could  not 
restrain  a  natural  pity  for  the  unhappy  lady,  but  he  felt  that 
in  combining  Sparta's  mother  with  a  jealous  wife,  she  had  com- 
mitted, at  the  least,  a  serious  breach  or  taste. 

He  was  relieved  to  find  no  traces  of  the  quarrel  lingering  in 
the  air  when  he  came  down  to  the  supper-table.  Dr.  Gentian  was 
pleasanter  than  usual,  if  anything,  and  Mrs.  Gentian  very  com- 
posed. He  marvelled  anew  at  the  deceptiveness  of  all  women 
but  Sparta— he  could  hardly  believe  that  the  cool,  terse  accents 
which  asked  him  politely  for  his  verdict  on  the  salad  of  hearts 
of  cabbage-palm,  belonged  to  the  same  woman  whose  voice  had 
been  so  sere  with  an  exhausted  flame  a  little  while  ago.  Then  he 
was  left  alone  with  Dr.  Gentian,  and  it  was  time  for  him  to  put 
his  question.  Only  now,  when  the  time  had  come,  in  spite  of 
any  fortification  of  wine,  the  question  stuck  in  his  throat. 

"Shall  we  take  our  wine  into  my  study?"  said  Dr.  Gentian  and 
rose.  "There  is  a  new  herbal  I  should  like  to  show  you— the  author 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

has  some  ingenious  ideas  upon  the  domestication  of  the  mulberry- 
tree  in  these  parts." 

Andrew  assented  gratefully,  grasping  at  the  moment's  relief. 
Besides  he  took  it  as  a  good  omen  that  on  this  night  of  all  nights, 
Dr.  Gentian  should  invite  him  to  the  seldom-visited  chamber 
which  he  had  always  visualized  as  the  hidden  brain  of  the  planta- 

He  took  in  its  details  now  with  care,  as  if  some  one  of  them 
might  give  him  a  clue  to  his  future.  The  fantastic  yet  eifective 
diversity  of  its  master's  character  was  displayed  in  the  chamber 
almost  to  excess.  It  was  a  long,  oval,  high-ceiled  room,  hung  in 
blue  and  gold  leather—the  domed  ceiling  was  blue,  as  well,  and 
powdered  with  small  gold  stars.  There  were  books  and  chemical 
apparatus,  a  set  of  chessmen  whose  kings  rode  ivory  elephants,  a 
foreign  dagger  with  beryls  set  in  the  blade.  An  herbarium  stood 
in  a  corner  beside  the  articulated  skeleton  of  a  child— a  violin 
lay  on  a  carved  wooden  chest,  neighbored  by  a  case  of  surgical 
instruments,  a  pair  of  dividers  and  an  azimuth.  Yet  in  spite  of  this 
litter  of  incompatible  objects  and  interests,  the  room  gave  an  im- 
pression of  neatness  and  order  as  precise  as  that  of  a  captain's 
cabin  on  a  shipshape  frigate.  Andrew  felt  that  Dr.  Gentian  could 
go  blindfold  to  any  single  thing  in  the  room  and  put  his  hand 
upon  it— and  also,  that  the  room  was,  in  a  measure,  an  extension 
of  the  soul  of  its  master,  and  should  he  die,  would  be  haunted 
forever  by  a  light,  sure  footstep  and  a  tight,  Roman  smile.  He 
turned  over  the  leaves  of  the  herbal— the  plates  made  a  blur  of 
color  in  his  eyes  and  Dr.  Gentian  was  saying  something  about 
mulberries  that  he  should  listen  to,  but  his  mind  was  racked,  and 
he  could  not  attend. 

"I  intended  the  ceiling  as  a  planetary  map,  showing  roughly 
the  movements  of  the  various  heavenly  bodies  and  the  transit  of 
the  moon,"  said  his  host,  politely,  as  Andrew's  eyes  strayed  frorr 
the  herbal  to  the  ceiling,  "but  the  work  was  never  completed/ 
He  sighed.  "Perhaps  some  day,  we  can  manage  it." 

"It  is  a  splendid  chamber,  sir,"  said  Andrew,  thinking  of  Sparta. 

"It  is  my  retreat,"  Dr.  Gentian  confided.  "You  may  not  have 
noticed— but  there  is  deadening  in  the  walls,  and  when  I  am 
secluded  here,  there  are  orders  I  shall  not  be  disturbed.  I  even 
have  my  own  staircase  to  the  upper  part  of  the  house." 

"Really?"  said  Andrew,  marshalling  the  facts  of  his  birth  and 

Spanish  Bayonet 

worldly  circumstances  in  proper  order  to  present  to  a  father, 

"Yes,  indeed/'  said  Dr.  Gentian.  He  rose  and  opened  a  door 
at  the  side— a  door  flush  with  the  wall.  "Would  you  like  to  see 
it— the  workmanship  is  truly  ingenious." 

He  led  the  way  up  a  short,  winding  stair,  chatting.  At  a  land- 
ing, he  paused.  "We  are  behind  the  ceiling  now,"  he  said.  He 
slid  a  little  panel  back  with  an  oily  click.  "When  I  planned  my 
planetary  map,  I  thought  to  place  my  moon  here  and  light  it 
with  a  concealed  lamp— a  childish  fancy  enough,  but  what's  life 
without  vagaries?  Then  I  thought  my  toy  might  burn  the  roof 
down  over  my  head  some  fine  night  and  gave  up  the  plan.  As  it 
is,  my  moon  makes  an  excellent  Judas-hole  if  I  had  need  of  one." 
He  stepped  aside.  Andrew  came  forward  and  peered  through  a 
small  round  opening  directly  down  into  the  room  which  they  had 
just  left.  He  muttered  something  about  an  interesting  device. 

"Only  a  toy,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  "and  a  costly  one.  1  fear  I 
am  too  fond  of  toys."  He  shut  the  panel  with  a  smooth  sound, 
and  waved  into  the  gloom.  "The  stair  there  leads  direct  to  the 
main  corridor— I  find  it  convenient,  but  I  will  not  make  you 
climb  any  further  beyond  the  moon."  He  chuckled  and  led  the 
way  down  again.  "I  have  always  hankered  after  oddities— 'tis  my 
greatest  defect.  I  never  realize  how  I  may  fatigue  others  with  my 
hobbies— as  I  fear  I  have  fatigued  you,  this  evening,  Mr.  Beard,  by 
your  face—" 

"Not  at  all,  sir,"  said  Andrew,  untruthfully,  seated  in  his  chair 
again.  He  cleared  his  throat  desperately.  "Dr.  Gentian—"  he  said. 

"Yes,  Mr.  Beard?— the  bottle  lies  with  you,  I  think— thank  you." 
The  little  gurgle  of  the  Doctor's  wine  into  his  glass  put  Andrew 
off  unaccountably.  For  a  moment  he  thoroughly  wished  himself 
heartwhole  and  a  thousand  miles  away.  But  he  set  his  teeth  and 
brought  up  an  image  of  Spaita  to  aid  him. 

"Dr.  Gentian—"  he  began  again,  with  an  unfortunate  sense 
of  repetition. 

"Pardon  me,"  interrupted  the  smiling  Doctor  politely,  "but 
your  glass  is  already  full.  You  may  not  have  observed  it."  And 
Andrew  discovered  to  his  horror  that  he  was  spilling  a  red  stream 
on  the  table  from  an  overflowing  glass. 

"Sorry,  I'm  sure,"  he  mumbled. 

"It  is  nothing,"  the  Doctor  assured  him.  "But  I  chance  to  have 
a  peculiar  affection  for  certain  years  of  Madeira.  Pray  continue, 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Mr.  Beard—you  will  find  it  a  trifle  difficult  to  rest  the  bottle  on  a 
walnut— I  mention  it,  merely— pray  continue—" 

Andrew  silently  placed  the  bottle  as  far  from  him  as  possible 
and  wetted  his  lips. 

"Dr.  Gentian/'  he  said  for  the  third  time,  "I  crave— I  wish- 
May  I  humbly  crave,  sir,  your  permission  to—" 

uYou  may  certainly  have  my  most  willing  permission  to  pay 
your  addresses  to  my  daughter,  Sparta,"  said  the  Doctor,  briskly 
snipping  Andrew's  disjoined  stammerings  in  two.  Then,  seeing 
Andrew's  stupefied  face,  he  threw  back  his  head  and  burst  into 
a  shout  of  laughter. 

"Why,  you  silly  boy,"  he  said,  laughing  and  wiping  the  tears 
of  laughter  from  his  eyes,  "d'you  suppose  I  haven't  seen  where 
your  heart's  been  drifting  this  last  half-year?  But  the  blindest 
worm  in  the  ground's  a  crystal-gazer  to  a  young  man  in  love. 
Here,  lad—"  and  he  gave  his  hand  to  Andrew  across  the  table. 
"Shake  hands  and  don't  look  so  solemn.  You  can  have  her  if 
you  can  win  her.  I  can  say  no  more  than  that,  for  I  won't  force 
her— but  that  I'll  say  with  a  good  conscience." 

"I  can  never  thank  you  enough,  sir,"  said  Andrew,  solemnly, 
shaking  hands. 

"Well  then— don't  thank  me  at  all— that's  far  the  best  course 
for  both  of  us,"  said  the  Doctor,  cheerfully.  "I'll  say  this,  too— 
the  girl  has  no  other  attachment  I  know  of,  and  I'll  be  glad  to 
give  her  to  you,  should  she  be  agreeable.  But  a  word  on  other 
matters."  He  grew  serious  now.  "I  am  not  a  young  man,  Mr. 
Beard,  and  somewhat  loath  to  part  with  my  one  chick  for  the 
few  years  left  me.  So  I  must  ask  you  this— should  you  marry  my 
daughter,  sir,  would  you  intend  to  remain  in  the  Floridas  or  re- 
turn to  New  York?" 

Andrew  felt  himself  unable  to  think  of  such  petty  matters. 

"I  have  grown  much  attached  to  the  Floridas,"  he  said  smiling. 
"So  much  that  I  should  not  think  of  quitting  them,  if—" 

"Good,"  said  the  Doctor.  "Then  we're  agreed.  I  confess— I'd 
feel  a  wrench  were  it  to  be  otherwise.  Well,  sir— I  think  that  is 
all  I  wished  to  say.  The  settlements— of  course  I  speak  merely  in 
the  eventuality,  Mr.  Beard— had  best  be  discussed  between  your 
father  and  myself— I  might  even  make  the  voyage  North  in  case 
—though  in  these  uneasy  times—" 

"My  father  is  much  interested  in  the  Floridas,"  Andrew  blurted 

1 60 

Spanish  Bayonet 

out.  "It  is  even  possible  my  father  might  remove  some  of  his 
interests  here—"  He  half-regretted  the  words  once  they  were 
spoken,  but  Dr.  Gentian  had  behaved  with  such  admirable  candor 
that  it  surely  behooved  him  to  do  likewise. 

"Indeed?"  said  the  Doctor  quietly.  "That  is  very  interesting." 
He  reflected.  "Your  father  is  a  wise  man,"  he  said.  "No  one 
knows  what  this  stir  in  the  North  may  lead  to— but  the  Floridas 
will  stand  by  the  Crown.  And  should  your  father— well,  well," 
he  broke  oft.  "There'll  be  time  enough  to  talk  of  that  later.  At 
present,  no  doubt  you're  already  busy  with  a  sonnet  to  my 
daughter's  eyebrow  and  aching  for  the  sight  of  her.  Ah,  youth— 
what  a  heat  in  the  mind  it  is,  and  how  we  cool  when  it's  over. 
By  the  way,"  he  went  on  more  practically,  "as  you  know,  I  must 
visit  St.  Augustine  in  a  month  or  so,  and  be  gone  some  time.  If 
this  matter  we  have  discussed  might  be  settled  before  I  leave—" 

"But  sir— I— I— Miss  Gentian—"  said  Andrew,  his  mind  topsy- 

Dr.  Gentian  laid  a  paternal  hand  on  his  shoulder. 

"There,  lad— I  don't  mean  to  press  you— or  you  her— but  take 
my  word  for  it,  the  swiftest  love  is  often  the  surest  and  lastingest 
—and  your  bold,  rapid  lover  is  wedded  and  bedded  and  got  his 
child  on  the  maid  while  Sir  Timothy  Shilly-Shally  is  still  sighing 
outside  her  door." 

Andrew  felt  this  last  advice  a  trifle  frank  in  tone— but  it  was 
an  unsqueamish  age,  and  he  could  hardly  quibble  with  so  amiable 
a  prospective  father-in-law  over  niceties  of  language.  He  went 
out  of  the  study,  with  the  other's  hand  on  his  shoulder  and  a 
bronze  call,  like  the  call  of  a  centaur's  hunting-horn,  in  his  heart. 


He  was  alone  with  Sparta  in  the  garden,  and  his  hour  was  upon 
him.  The  opportunity  had  come  so  swiftly  and  easily  that  he  felt 
bewildered.  A  word  from  Dr.  Gentian  as  to  the  beauty  of  that 
strange  plant,  the  cereus,  which  blooms  only  at  night.  A  sigh 
from  Sparta  that  the  house  was  close  and  she  would  risk  any 
treachery  of  the  night  air  for  a  breath  of  cool  from  the  river. 
She  had  put  a  light  shawl  about  her  shoulders,  impatiently,  at  her 
mother's  insistence.  In  the  white  shine  of  the  stars  its  vivid 
flowers  were  darkened  and  strange,  it  wrapped  her  shoulders  in 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

a  pale  fleece,  marked  obscurely  with  the  imprint  of  blossoms 
sprung  from  fields  on  the  dark  side  of  the  moon.  Andrew  had 
never  seen  her  more  beautiful  or  less  attainable.  Her  composed 
face  seemed  to  have  no  room  for  thoughts  of  him  or  any  other 
man,  her  eyes  were  lighted  at  an  indifferent  planet,  her  mouth 
was  a  shut  flower. 

They  had  seen  the  cereus  and  marvelled— the  night-flower  that 
blooms  when  heaven  is  dark  and  dies  in  the  sun,  showing  only 
the  secret  hours  of  the  risen  planets  the  perfection  of  its  white- 
ness, cool,  sterile  and  lovely  as  a  blossom  congealed  from  some 
metal  slighter  than  foam.  They  had  talked  of  a  dozen,  indifferent 
things  as  they  strolled  about.  Andrew  had  long  ago  discovered 
that  Sparta  was  very  curious  of  New  York  and  of  cities  in  gen- 
eral. Her  childish  years  were  a  confused  memory  of  long  sea- 
voyages  and  strange  nurses.  The  one  glimpse  of  London,  seen 
when  she  was  eleven  and  her  roving  father  had  been  interesting 
Lord  Hillsborough  in  his  projects,  was  hugged  like  the  ghost  of 
a  jewel  to  her  breast.  She  remcmbe'red  Vauxhall  passionately— 
and  the  very  sprigs  on  the  dresses  of  the  fine  ladies  in  panniered 
silk  who  came  there  in  sedan-chairs  with  a  train  of  tame  wits  and 
sniffing  lapdogs. 

"Sometimes,  I  confess,  Mr.  Beard— I  must  have  a  foolish  heart 
— I'd  rather  be  an  orange  girl  in  the  meanest  London  playhouse 
than  an  empress  in  these  exiled  Floridas.  But  then  I  remember, 
when  I  was  a  child  my  sole  ambition  was  to  be  a  midshipman 
on  one  of  His  Majesty's  frigates  so  I  could  carry  a  dirk  and  kill 
Frenchmen— and  I  calm  myself." 

Andrew  longed  to  tell  her,  that  he  would  give  her  London,  a 
chicken-skin  fan,  and  a  lapdog  with  the  arrogant  nose  of  a  Chinese 
god— but  his  promise  to  Dr.  Gentian  held  him  back.  At  least,  he 
thought,  she  should  be  an  empress  in  the  Floridas,  if  he  could 
make  her  one.  He  glanced  up  the  sky— the  change  Sebastian  had 
predicted  was  beginning.  Clouds  hurried  across  the  stars  like 
trotting  black  sheep— a  rampart  of  darkness  built  itself  up  steadily 
in  the  glittering  wake  of  the  moon.  He  chose  a  particular  cloud. 
When  it  blotted  the  moon  he  would  speak. 

"Mr.  Beard— Mr.  Beard— is  my  company  so  wearisome?  You 
have  not  honored  me  with  a  word  these  five  minutes  past.'7  Her 
shoe  tapped  on  the  path.  Her  face  was  amused.  He  stared  at  her 


Spanish  Bayonet 

in  silence,  waiting  for  his  omen.  It  came  at  last.  The  cloud  blotted 
the  moon  and  darkness  fell  on  them  both. 

"Miss  Gentian— Sparta—'1  he  said  with  a  crack  in  his  throat. 
Then  all  his  elaborate  prologue  of  speech  forgotten,  he  put  shak- 
ing hands  on  her  shoulders  and  drew  her  to  him. 

"Sparta?  You'll  marry  me?"  he  said,  in  that  same,  cracked, 
violent  voice.  She  was  very  near,  now.  He  could  see  her  eyes  in 
the  darkness,  the  gray  had  gone  out  of  them,  they  were  black  as 
opals,  and  in  each  was  a  tiny  gleaming  image  of  his  face.  She 
looked  at  him  steadily,  for  an  instant,  without  replying.  Then, 
"Yes,  I'll  marry  you,"  she  said,  the  crystal  bell  of  her  voice  un- 
troubled by  doubt  or  surprise.  Then  his  arms  went  round  her  and 
she  kissed  him  full  on  the  mouth,  and  he  felt  his  heart  stop  in 
his  body  for  that  instant  of  felicity  as  if  the  pointed  blade  of  the 
Spanish  bayonet  had  run  him  through  and  through  with  a  golden 

Through  the  further  events  of  the  evening,  Andrew  moved 
like  a  man  in  trance.  There  were  Sparta's  kisses  in  the  garden, 
which  were  real,  though  incredible,  and  there  was  the  formal 
reception  of  their  betrothal  by  Dr.  and  Mrs.  Gentian,  which, 
while  equally  real  no  doubt,  seemed  in  memory,  vague  as  a 
painting  upon  a  dream.  He  could  hear  the  words  on  Sparta's  lips 
clearly  enough,  "Mr.  Beard  has  asked  for  me  in  marriage,  Father, 
and  I  have  accepted  him,  subject  to  your  consent,"  but  of  the 
practical  conversation  which  followed  he  had  little  recollection. 
Dr.  Gentian  had  drunk  his  health  and  called  him  son— he  had 
drunk  Dr.  Gentian's  health— Mrs.  Gentian  had  been  terse  but 
agreeable— he  was  going  to  marry  Sparta— that  remained,  unbe- 
lievable though  it  might  be,  the  one  steadfast  fact  in  a  rocking 
world.  He  tried  to  recall  what  Mrs.  Gentian  had  said  to  him— 
her  congratulations  had  certainly  not  erred  on  the  side  of 

He  was  sure  she  had  said  no  more  than,  "So  you  are  to  marry 
our  daughter,  Mr.  Beard?  I  wish  you  much  joy,"  while  she 
looked  at  him  curiously.  But  then  he  had  taken  her  hand  to  kiss 
it  in  acknowledgment  and  had  been  surprised  to  find  it  trem- 
bling. Obviously  a  lady  of  deep,  if  hidden,  feeling— and  certainly 
Dr.  Gentian's  cheery  talkativeness  more  than  made  up  for  any 
curtness  of  hers. 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

He  must  tell  Sebastian,  in  the  morning.  He  had  forgotten  all 
about  Sebastian  till  now,  he  realized  with  a  start.  No— not  quite 
forgotten.  He  had  paused  an  instant  as  Sparta  and  he  were  about 
to  reenter  the  house,  and  glancing  about  idly,  had  seen  two  in- 
distinct shapes,  a  woman's  and  a  man's,  part  from  each  other  in 
the  shadows  of  the  outbuildings.  He  suspected  them  of  being 
lovers,  and  had  felt  friendship  for  them  because  he  was  now  happy 
in  love.  Now  he  suspected  more— that  one  shape  had  been  Sebas- 
tian's and  the  other  that  of  Caterina,  the  Minorcan  rnaid.  The 
thought  pleased  him  extraordinarily— he  was  in  that  benevolent 
state  when  we  are  generous  enough  to  wish  all  our  friends  a 
bliss  only  slightly  less  than  our  own.  He  gave  Sebastian  a  suitable 
wedding,  engaged  him  as  chief-overseer  on  his  new  plantation 
and  stood  godfather  to  his  first  child,  before  he  fell  asleep  to 
the  rushing  of  light,  fierce  rain  on  the  roof  above  his  head. 

About  the  time  that  Andrew  and  his  divinity  were  first  observ- 
ing the  mystery  of  the  cereus,  the  monkey  in  Sebastian's  hut 
gave  over  its  attempts  to  capture  a  peculiarly  elusive  flea  and 
began  to  consider  other  means  of  diversion.  Its  master  was  away 
—fleas  ceased  to  interest  after  a  certain  time— life  in  general  was 
a  sucked  cocoanut  and  obedience  a  rusty  chain  about  the  body 
that  kept  one  from  all  sorts  of  pleasantly  destructive  occupations. 
If  the  chain  could  only  be  got  rid  of  somehow— but  there  the 
monkey  had  never  had  the  slightest  success  before  and  hoped  for 
little  now.  Still,  it  was  worth  trying,  and  the  monkey  bit  at  it  a 
couple  of  times  for  luck  and  then  squatted  down  sailorwise  and 
tugged  at  it  till  it  rattled,  delightfully. 

To  his  surprise,  it  seemed  to  give  a  little— Sebastian  had  ham- 
mered the  staple  in  a  new  place  that  morning  without  noticing 
the  rottenness  of  the  wood.  The  monkey,  encouraged,  tried  again 
and  again,  with  less  result,  and  was  about  to  give  it  up  and  go 
to  sleep,  when  one  last  jerk  pulled  the  staple  loose  and  set  him 
free.  He  bounded  instantly  upon  Sebastian's  bed  and  sat  there 
chattering  triumphantly.  There  were  so  many  breakable  objects 
within  easy  reach  that  he  did  not  know  quite  where  to  begin. 
He  started  by  hammering  Sebastian's  red  clay  pipe  against  a 
stone.  It  smashed  very  satisfactorily  in  a  moment  or  two  and 


Spanish  Bayonet 

he  amused  himself  for  some  time  by  carefully  distributing  the 
bits  inside  Sebastian's  blankets.  Then  that  too  palled  and  he  scut- 
tled over  to  the  door,  his  chain  jingling  behind  him.  The  night 
seemed  very  large  and  interesting.  There  were  trees  in  it.  He 
had  not  climbed  a  tree  in  a  long  time. 

He  remedied  the  lack  immediately,  but  the  tree  he  chose  wasn't 
much  of  a  tree  at  that— it  had  no  fruit  on  it  to  suck  and  throw 
away,  with  a  squash,  at  other  men  or  monkeys.  Still,  it  was  good 
to  be  independent  again,  at  last.  He  said  so  at  length,  to  the  sur- 
rounding world,  and  set  out  upon  his  travels. 

The  joys  of  independence  lasted  till  the  first  large  drops  of  rain 
began  to  soak  into  his  fur.  Then  they  grew  a  trifle  dubious.  After 
all,  he  had  become  used  to  living  in  a  house  with  a  roof  on  it,  and 
the  society  of  mankind,  while  often  tedious,  had  its  compensa- 
tions. He  had  had  an  adventurous  outing  and  smelled  and  bitten 
at  all  sorts  of  new  and  interesting  substances.  He  had  proven 
himself  a  monkey  of  ingenuity  and  initiative.  Now,  the  hut  on 
the  edge  of  the  Minorcan  quarter  seemed  snug  and  warm,  and 
die  food  he  shared  with  Sebastian  more  filling,  on  the  whole,  than 
what  one  could  forage  for  oneself.  He  would  go  back— but  he 
had  come  a  considerable  distance  in  his  careless  rambling  and  was 
not  quite  sure  of  his  bearings. 

He  looked  around  him— ah,  there  was  a  house  with  a  light  in 
the  window.  That  meant  man  and  warmth  and  shelter.  A  dif- 
ferent master,  perhaps— but  he  had  been  so  long  with  Sebastian 
that  he  had  quite  forgotten  his  first  unpleasant  experiences  with 

He  slipped  down  to  the  ground  and  jangled  over  toward  the 
lighted  house,  shivering  as  he  ran.  It  was  really  raining  now,  and 
he  hated  rain  like  a  cat. 

Mr.  Cave,  alone  in  colloquy  with  a  half-emptied  bottle  of 
spirits,  heard  a  sudden  ghostly  clanking  through  the  dripping 
pour  of  the  rain,  and  looking  up,  saw  the  Devil  in  person  stand- 
ing in  his  doorway  with  a  chain  wrapped  around  his  middle.  He 
rubbed  horrified  eyes  and  began  to  pray  in  a  whisper.  Then  his 
mind  righted  itself  and  he  sank  back  in  his  chair,  muttering.  It 
was  only  that  impudent  Minorcan's  draggled  pet-ape—but  it  had 
given  him  a  start,  and  he  did  not  like  being  startled  when  he  was 
in  liquor. 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

The  wet  monkey  had  jumped  on  the  table  now  and  sat  op- 
posite him,  grinning  and  looking  at  the  bottle  of  spirits.  He 
grinned  back  at  it.  It  would  be  funny  to  give  the  miserable 
little  beast  some  liquor  and  get  it  drunk.  You  could  get  a  chicken 
drunk  on  corn  soaked  in  brandy  but  a  drunken  monkey  would 
be  even  more  amusing. 

"Here,"  he  said,  splashed  some  liquor  into  a  glass  and  held  it 
out  to  the  monkey.  If  the  monkey  behaved  itself  and  proved  en- 
tertaining when  intoxicated,  he  might  even  keep  it.  The  Minorcan 
fellow  set  a  good  deal  of  store  by  it  and  laborers  had  no  business 
keeping  pets. 

The  monkey  took  the  glass  trustingly— Sebastian  had  taught  it 
how  to  drink  from  a  glass,  in  the  useless  way  men  had.  Now  it 
swallowed  a  gulp  of  what  was  inside  the  glass.  The  raw  liquor 
stung  its  throat— it  coughed  and  spat  in  quaint  loathing.  Mr.  Cave 
roared—this  was  even  more  diverting  than  he  had  expected.  Then 
he  felt  the  monkey's  sharp  teeth  almost  meet  in  his  thumb,  gave 
a  squeal  of  pain,  and  struck  at  it  blindly  with  the  bottle. 

Even  so,  the  monkey  might  have  escaped,  if  it  had  not  been 
for  its  chain.  But  the  chain  tangled  its  feet  as  it  dodged  away— 
and  Mr.  Cave's  second  blow  was  better  aimed  than  his  first. 

He  stood  looking  at  the  dead  animal,  stupidly.  It  bled  like  a 
man.  He  hadn't  really  meant  to  kill  it.  But  he  had— and  that 
Minorcan  who  owned  it  was  a  sullen  devil.  Well,  he'd  just  have 
to  face  it  out,  if  the  ugly  little  swine  tried  any  tricks  on  him. 

He  took  the  limp  body  of  the  monkey  gingerly  by  one  leg 
and  threw  it  out  of  the  door.  It  was  raining  hard,  now— the  rain 
would  wash  some  of  the  blood  off,  he  thought,  inanely.  He 
shivered.  Killing  an  animal  wasn't  much,  but  he  wished  its  hands 
hadn't  looked  like  a  dead  baby's  when  he  picked  it  up.  He  shut 
the  door  carefully,  bolted  it,  and  returned  to  his  bottle.  Now 
and  then  he  cast  an  uneasy  glance  at  the  window.  If  the  damn 
little  brute  hadn't  bitten— it  should  have  known  he  had  a  quick 
temper  and  wouldn't  stand  biting— His  thoughts  trailed  off  un- 
easily, into  a  mist  the  color  of  liquor. 

Sebastian  got  back  to  his  hut  just  before  the  rain  broke,  and, 
finding  the  monkey  vanished,  started  to  search  for  it  at  once. 
At  first  he  did  not  imagine  that  it  could  have  gone  very  far  and 
stood  in  the  doorway,  calling,  "Amigo!  Amigo!"  in  a  crooning 

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Spanish  Bayonet 

voice,  for  some  time.  But  when  no  chattering  answered  from  the 
darkness,  he  became  disturbed  and  started  out  to  visit  the  huts 
nearest  him.  Even  the  Greeks  answered  pleasantly  enough— the 
monkey  was  quite  a  favorite  in  the  colony— but  none  had  any 
news.  A  Minorcan  woman  said  that  she  had  been  awakened  by 
the  rattling  of  a  chain  outside  her  window,  but  that  was  all. 

The  rain  soaked  Sebastian  to  the  skin,  as  he  proceeded  on  his 
quest,  but  he  did  not  notice  it.  He  grew  increasingly  distraught 
and  cursed  himself  for  not  having  seen  that  the  monkey  was 
securely  chained,  before  he  left  the  hut.  "Amigo!  Amigo!"  he 
called  again  and  again,  with  a  dry  throat,  and  promised  his  name- 
saint  a  candle  for  every  arrow  that  had  stuck  in  his  flesh.  But 
there  was  no  answer  from  either  saint  or  monkey. 

He  did  not  know  what  impulse  drove  him  at  last  to  Mr.  Cave's 
cottage,  save  that  he  hated  the  man  and  knew  the  man  hated  him. 
It  was  there,  however,  in  the  dripping  weeds  near  the  house  of  his 
enemy,  that  he  stumbled  at  last  upon  the  body  of  his  friend.  He 
took  it  up  silently,  the  head  was  still  bloody  in  spite  of  the  rain, 
and  the  wrinkled  face  stiff  and  sad.  Then,  still  in  silence,  with  the 
dead  animal  in  his  arms,  he  made  the  complete  circuit  of  the  cot- 
tage, trying  every  door  and  window,  noiselessly.  But  the  doors 
and  windows  were  fastened  and  the  house  was  dark. 

He  sat  down  upon  the  ground  then,  still  holding  the  monkey, 
and  burst  into  a  fit  of  dry  sobbing,  while  the  rain  beat  on  him. 
Then  he  returned  to  his  hut. 

When  he  got  back,  he  lit  two  scraps  of  candle  and  placed  the 
monkey's  body  between  them.  Then  he  stripped  himself  to  the 
waist,  and,  going  to  the  wooden  chest  that  held  his  few  posses- 
sions, took  out  of  it  a  small  brass  medal,  tarnished  green  by  the 
damp.  On  it  was  the  image  of  the  Mother  of  God.  Her  face  was 
quiet— she  had  seven  swords  in  her  heart.  This,  together  with  the 
knife  that  Andrew  had  given  him,  he  also  put  on  the  table  be- 
tween the  candles.  He  then  knelt  and  began  to  pray  in  Mahonese. 
The  form  of  prayer  was  one  peculiar  to  the  men  of  the  islands 
and  unacknowledged  by  Rome.  Andrew  would  have  thought 
him  even  too  alien,  if  he  had  seen  him  then— the  muscles  of  his 
stripped  body  trembled  with  the  vehemence  of  his  supplication 
—he  was  dedicating  Andrew's  knife  to  Our  Lady  of  Vengeance. 
After  a  time  had  passed,  he  rose  again,  put  on  his  soaked  shirt,  and 
went  stiffly  out  to  dig  the  childish  grave. 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Next  morning,  in  spite  of  Andrew's  resolve,  the  two  friends 
did  not  meet.  Instead,  Sparta  had  a  wish  to  go  riding  through  the 
new-washed  and  freshly-scented  countryside,  and  when  they  re- 
turned, Dr.  Gentian,  a  cloud  on  his  brow,  was  dismissing  a  deputa- 
tion of  the  elder  Minorcans  from  his  study.  He  turned  to 
Andrew  sharply,  the  moment  he  saw  him. 

"Was  your  ride  a  pleasant  one,  lad?"  he  said,  abstractedly. 
"Come  with  me  a  moment— there  is  something  I  would  have  your 
advice  on." 

"Certainly,  sir,"  said  Andrew,  pleased  at  being  consulted.  He 
turned  to  Sparta.  "You'll  excuse  me,  mistress?"  he  said  lightly. 

"I  shall  excuse  you  sir,"  said  Sparta  smiling,  her  fingers  playing 
with  the  lash  of  her  riding-whip. 

Dr.  Gentian  shut  the  door  of  his  study.  "The  Minorcans  are 
making  trouble,"  he  said  without  preface.  "I  thought  it  best  you 
should  know." 

"Making  trouble?"  said  Andrew,  jarred.  He  somehow  felt  that 
trouble  at  this  time  was  an  insult  to  his  happiness  and  Sparta's. 

"Yes,"  said  Dr.  Gentian.  He  hesitated.  "  Tis  a  long  story.  The 
gist  of  it's  this.  They  say  they've  served  their  time  for  their  lands, 
under  our  agreement.  Now  they  want  them." 

Andrew's  mind  reverted  to  his  encounter  with  Caterina  on  that 
yesterday  that  seemed  so  distant.  "The  Minorcans  will  never  have 
their  lands  now,"  she  had  said. 

"Well,  sir—"  he  began  judicially. 

Dr.  Gentian  cut  him  off.  "Yes— that  was  the  agreement,"  he 
admitted.  "Three  years.  But  there's  the  religious  difficulty. 
They're  Catholics,  every  man  jack  of  them— Roman  Catholics. 
Now  listen  to  me,"  he  tapped  his  thumb  on  the  table.  "When  1 
first  took  them  on  my  ships— would  they  have  made  conditions 
then?  No.  They  were  starving.  I  took  them  because  they  were 
starving.  I  didn't  think  then— They  let  me  take  the  Greeks  be- 
cause the  Greek  Church  to  our  mind's  a  Protestant  church— but 
if  I'd  proposed  transporting  twelve  hundred  Catholics  to  the 
Floridas  as  settlers— giving  them  lands— the  men  at  Whitehall 
would  have  cracked  my  whole  project  like  an  egg.  I  had  to  dis- 
semble a  little— how  could  I  refuse  starving  men?— I  thought  once 

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Spanish  Bayonet 

they  were  settled  here— but  the  present  governor's  my  enemy,  as 
you  know—" 

"Even  so,  sir—"  said  Andrew,  trying  to  put  in  a  word. 

"See  here,  lad,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  very  firmly  and  gently, 
"Spain's  still  plotting  to  recover  the  Floridas.  If  I  yield  to  these 
men's  demands  and  give  them  their  lands  now— the  governor 
can  make  a  mare's  nest  out  of  it— enough  to  link  me  up  with  any 
kind  of  a  trumpery  Spanish  plot  he  can  bogy  the  men  in  England 
with.  Then  all  New  Sparta  falls  to  the  ground— and  who  gains 
by  it?  Your  friends,  the  Minorcans?  No.  I  must  put  them  off  for 
the  present— till  we  have  a  new  governor— or— " 

"I  can  see  the  logic  in  everything  you  say,  sir,"  said  Andrew, 
a  trifle  stubbornly,  ubut  nevertheless—"  < 

The  green  stone  in  Dr.  Gentian's  ring  flashed  as  he  stretched 
out  his  hand  to  Andrew. 

"Have  I  treated  you  like  a  son,  Andrew— yes  or  no?"  he  said 
quite  simply,  and  Andrew  felt  touched  and  humbled,  but  a  little 
trapped  as  well.  After  all,  whether  or  not  Dr.  Gentian  had  treated 
him  like  a  son  had  little  to  do  with  his  treatment  of  the  Minor- 

"You  have  always  treated  me  most  kindly,  sir,"  he  said,  a  bit 
grudgingly,  yet  hating  himself  for  being  grudging.  "And  yet—" 

Dr.  Gentian  looked  hurt.  He  dropped  his  hand. 

"And  yet  you  are  unwilling  to  take  my  word  on  this— even 
'  when  I  assure  you  that  one  of  my  reasons  for  going  to  St.  Augus- 
tine will  be  my  wish  to  remedy  the  matter  with  the  governor?" 

"Of  course,  I  must  take  your  word,  sir— if  you  put  it  like 
that,"  said  Andrew,  in  a  sudden  glow  of  self-reproach. 

"Ah,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  and  laid  a  hand  on  his  elbow.  "Ah- 
that's  my  good  lad!" 

Nevertheless,  a  tiny  crack  had  come  in  the  polished  lacquer  of 
his  relation  with  Dr.  Gentian.  Dr.  Gentian's  course  of  action 
might  be  dictated  by  an  expediency  entirely  honorable— but  there 
must  be  a  Minorcan  side,  if  only  a  mistaken  one.  Andrew  re- 
spected the  Minorcans— they  had  great  patience— he  could  not 
think  of  them  as  lightly  aroused.  He  intended  to  find  out  their 
side— have  a  long  talk  with  Sebastian— discuss  things  with  some  of 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

the  elders  of  the  colony.  Indeed,  he  intended  much,  and  as  people 
will,  remained  satisfied  with  the  intent,  while  time  drifted  away, 
like  a  bough  of  wild  peaches  floating  on  a  lazy  stream. 

The  bright  retiarius  had  caught  and  bound  him  in  a  dazzling 
net—now  its  trident  poised  above  him  and  he  did  not  fear  the 
stroke.  His  servitude  was  too  happy— why  should  he  be  free?  — 
he  ran  at  a  golden  heel. 

He  did  not  go  so  often  to  the  fields,  now,  or  to  Sebastian's  hut. 
For  one  thing,  Dr.  Gentian  thought  he  should  begin  to  take  up 
the  accounting  and  governing  side  of  the  plantation.  Besides,  there 
were  expeditions  for  turtle,  down  the  inlet,  to  be  made  in  Sparta's 
company— she  handled  a  boat  like  a  man.  There  were  rides 
through  the  green  woods  and  sandy  pine-barrens,  and  once,  a 
dance  at  a  neighboring  plantation  a  day's  journey  away,  where  he 
saw  divinity  move  through  the  stately  patterns  of  louvre  and 
minuet  with  a  jealous  joy.  This  was  no  New  York  courtship, 
done  up  in  packthread  stays,  but  something  hardy  and  wild  as  a 
journey  up  the  face  of  a  crag  to  take  the  eggs  from  the  nest  of 
a  mountain-eagle,  and  he  rejoiced  that  it  could  be  so. 

Yet  it  seemed  to  him,  often  enough,  that  now,  in  betrothal,  he 
was  less  sure  of  her  heart  than  ever  before.  Before,  she  had  seemed 
strange  since  she  could  never  be  his;  now  she  was  to  be  his  indeed, 
but  she  still  was  strange.  He  could  touch  the  hand,  kiss  the  lips, 
hear  the  voice  speak  love,  but  in  the  eyes  something  remained 
aloof,  a  spectator  who  watched  all  that  befell  them  both  like  an 
enchanter  shut  in  a  tower  of  clouded  glass,  without  love  or  hate 
or  sin,  with  only  a  dispassionate  interest  in  the  certain  working  of 
a  spell.  If  he  could  once  break  that  glass  with  the  silver  hammer 
of  his  desire— perhaps  it  would  come  with  marriage  and  the  in- 
cantation of  the  flesh.  But  the  days  passed,  and  the  enchanter 
watched,  and  the  glass  remained  unbroken. 

Dr.  Gentian  went  to  St.  Augustine  at  last.  Andrew  would 
hardly  have  noticed  his  departure,  save  for  one  thing.  The  Pride 
of  the  Colonies  was  expected  with  long-delayed  mail  from  the 
North  and  might  even  bring  an  answer  to  the  letter  he  had 
written  his  father  about  his  betrothal.  The  letter  had  been  written 
in  March  and  it  was  nearly  the  end  of  May  now.  Then  he  came 
back  to  the  house,  one  evening,  after  a  day  at  the  vats,  as  Dr.  Gen- 
tian's deputy,  to  find  his  head  heavy  and  thick^  and  his  hands  hot. 
He  had  caught  a  little  fever,  somehow,  and  was  ill  for  several  days. 


Spanish  Bayonet 

The  illness,  after  the  first,  bad  night  had  passed,  gave  him  a 
chance  to  consider  a  number  of  things  he  had  not  thought  of 
for  some  while.  Sparta  sent  her  maid  to  help  nurse  him,  but  did 
not  come  often  herself.  He  was  glad  of  that— he  did  not  want  her 
to  see  him  with  cracked  lips  and  fever  in  his  face.  The  maid  was 
very  quiet  and  deft—she  had  cool  hands,  and  moved  without  little 
irritating  creakings  and  rustlings,  unlike  most  women. 

They  talked,  now  and  then.  She  reminded  him  of  Sebastian.  He 
had  been  remiss  about  Sebastian.  Sebastian's  monkey  was  dead- 
he  remembered  that,  now.  He  had  gone  to  Sebastian  to  tell  him 
the  great  news  and,  while  Sebastian  had  been  appreciative  enough, 
Andrew  saw  that  he  was  sad.  He  had  asked  about  the  monkey. 

"Yes,  Amigo  is  dead,"  said  Sebastian,  but  would  say  no  more, 
though  he  looked  at  a  little  brass  medal  that  hung  around  his 
neck  on  a  cord,  and  Andrew,  who  was  bursting  with  talk,  had  felt 
rebuffed.  He  asked  the  maid  about  Sebastian  now. 

"He  is  well,  I  think/'  said  the  maid,  holding  a  cup  to  his  lips. 
Andrew  drank  of  the  bitter  infusion  within  it  gratefully. 

"Don't  you  ever  see  him?"  he  said,  smiling,  when  the  cup  had 
been  taken  away. 

"He  asks  for  you  often.  He  hopes  you  will  be  better  soon." 
She  avoided  the  direct  reply. 

"Oh,  I'll  be  up  and  around  in  no  time,"  said  Andrew.  "Thanks 
to  your  nursing,"  he  added. 

"I  am  glad  if  my  nursing  has  helped  you,"  said  the  maid, 
rather  haltingly,  as  if  she  had  to  hunt  for  the  English  words. 
"You  are  a  friend  of  the  Minorcans— or  you  have  been." 

"Tell  me,"  said  Andrew  suddenly.  "What  did  you  mean  that 
time  in  the  corridor  when  you  said  the  Minorcans  would  never 
get  their  lands?  Dr.  Gentian  is  going  to  give  them  their  lands  as 
soon  as  the  governor  lets  him." 

"They  will  never  have  their  lands,"  said  the  girl,  sombrely. 
Her  eyes  fixed  him.  "Sometimes  Dr.  Gentian  sits  in  his  tall  room 
with  a  gold  cap  on  his  head,"  she  said,  abruptly.  "He  sits  there 
like  a  king—he  thinks  he  is  a  king— el  rey—el  rey—"  Her  voice 
rose,  "When  he  thinks  that— men  are  taken  into  the  woods  to 
have  their  backs  combed  with  steel  as  the  coat  of  a  horse  is 
curried  by  its  servant.  That  has  not  happened  since  you  have 
been  here,  but  it  has  happened.  He  had  a  madness  in  him,  then 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

—a  madness  that  hides— the  madness  of  a  drunken  king.  That  is 
why  the  Minorcans  will  never  have  their  lands." 

Andrew  stared  at  her,  wonderingly.  The  picture  she  presented 
was  wholly  fantastic,  but  he  could  not  doubt  the  sincerity  in  her 

"You're  mad!"  he  said,  finally.  "Mad  or— where  did  you  ever 
hear  such  a  crazy  tale?" 

"I  should  not  have  spoken,"  said  the  girl,  relapsing  into  her 
amazing  cairn.  "You  are  going  to  marry  my  mistress.  I  should 
not  have  spoken." 

"What  about  Mr.  Cave?"  said  Andrew,  on  impulse.  "What  do 
you  Minorcans  think  of  Mr.  Cave?" 

The  girl  shrugged  her  shoulders.  "He  is  a  dog,"  she  said, 
quietly  enough,  though  a  bitterness  colored  her  voice  like  rust. 
"He  is  mad,  too— but  only  with  the  madness  of  a  dog." 

"You're  not  very  cheerful  today,"  said  Andrew,  with  invalid 
peevishness.  "And  where  you  ever  got  such  a  farrago  of  nonsense 
—God  knows  I  hate  Cave  as  much  as  any  of  you  can— but  you 
make  everything  sound  cruel." 

She  shrugged  again.  "What  do  you  want  me  to  say?"  she  said, 
with  that  even  bitterness.  "Life  is  cruel.  Men  that  are  cruel  do 
no  more  than  copy  life." 

"Don't,"  said  Andrew,  wincing,  "I'm  sorry  you're  so  unhappy. 
You  oughtn't  to  be  so  unhappy  if  you're  Sebastian's  sweetheart." 

"So  I  am  Sebastian's  sweetheart?"  said  the  girl  and  smiled. 

"Well-aren't  you?" 

"Am  I?  I  don't  know.  How  do  you  know?  You  are  a  boy, 
sometimes— a  little,  little  boy.  You  must  take  your  medicine." 

"I  don't  want  it,"  complained  Andrew,  childishly.  "You  just 
gave  it  to  me,  anyhow." 

"You  must  take  it  often."  She  approached  him  with  the  cup. 
"It  takes  away  the  fever.  See,  you  are  much  cooler,  this  after- 
noon." She  laid  a  hand  on  his  forehead— the  light  touch  was  cool 
and  firm  as  if  she  had  brushed  his  brow  with  a  ringdove's  feather, 
fallen  upon  cool  stones. 

"There  now.  Go  to  sleep.  Sleep  mends  the  fever,  too." 

"Why  do  you  say  such  things  about  Dr.  Gentian?"  said 
Andrew,  impatiently,  but  she  turned  away  with  her  finger  on 
her  lips  and  sat  down  again  in  her  chair.  He  watched  her  through 
half-closed  eyes,  seeing  again  the  dark  Madonna  in  the  niche 


Spanish  Bayonet 

of  the  Spanish  church.  A  single  lamp  burned  before  it—the  face 
was  calm  and  secret— the  face  of  a  gypsy  saint— a  mystery  hung 
above  it  like  a  dove  in  chains.  He  could  feel  the  touch  of  fingers 
upon  his  brow,  cool  as  the  roots  of  lilies,  bathed  in  water  from 
the  hills.  He  lay  for  a  long  time  silent,  half-drowsing,  thinking 
of  Dr.  Gentian  in  a  gold  cap  and  a  lamp  before  an  image,  and  the 
roots  of  lilies  steeped  in  a  clear,  cold  stream. 

Next  morning  the  fever  had  gone;  his  body  felt  weak,  but  no 
longer  possessed.  He  lay  alone  all  morning  feeling  his  strength 
return  to  him  and  listening  with  mild  curiosity  to  the  various 
noises  of  the  house.  The  day  was  hot  and  sultry,  he  could  feel 
that  inside  his  skin,  but  his  room  was  cool  and  he  did  not  mind. 
He  had  a  convalescent's  desire  for  visitors  and  talk,  but  the  only 
person  he  saw  till  noon  was  the  body-servant  who  brought  his 
breakfast,  and  the  boy  slipped  away  before  he  could  question 
him  much. 

He  asked  for  Sparta— Miss  Gentian  was  well,  but  occupied,  she 
sent  her  regrets  at  not  being  able  to  visit  him  till  later.  Then  he 
asked  for  the  Minorcan  maid.  The  boy  stammered  and  said  that 
she  was  occupied  too,  on  some  work  for  Mrs.  Gentian.  He 
noticed  that  the  boy  seemed  uneasy  and  as  if  he  were  listening 
for  something  in  the  pauses  of  his  speech,  but  laid  it  to  the  heat. 
"Here,"  said  Andrew,  feeling  generous,  and  getting  his  purse 
from  under  his  pillow,  tossed  him  one  of  the  Spanish  dollars  that 
still  passed  current— the  boy  was  a  good  servant  and  deserved  an 
occasional  coin.  The  boy  murmured  his  thanks,  pouched  the 
dollar  quickly,  and  disappeared,  leaving  Andrew  to  idleness  and 

After  a  while  he  fell  asleep  and  woke  much  refreshed.  The 
house  was  very  quiet  and  he  began  to  consider  getting  up.  He 
looked  at  his  watch— it  had  stopped— but,  by  the  light  in  the 
room,  it  must  be  mid-afternoon.  A  tray  with  food  was  beside  him 
on  the  table— someone  must  have  come  and  gone  without  rousing 
him.  He  was  disturbed  at  the  thought  that  it  might  have  been 
Sparta.  He  called  for  his  boy,  and  no  one  answered.  Then  he 

fave  it  up  and  set  to  his  lunch  with  the  first  real  hunger  he  had 
nown  in  some  days. 

Later,  he  was  wakened  from  another  nap  by  an  indefinite 
sound  like  the  soft  closing  of  the  door  of  his  room.  He  stared  at 
the  door— the  curtains  near  it  still  moved,  but  if  there  had  been 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

a  visitor,  the  visitor  had  departed.  He  could  have  sworn  that,  in 
the  first  confused  instant  of  waking,  he  had  seen  a  face  staring  in 
through  the  closing  crack  of  the  door—a  face  like  Sparta's,  but 
not  hers,  for  the  eyes  in  this  face  were  hostile.  A  dream,  probably 
—the  shadows  had  changed  again  and  the  air  of  the  room  was 
charged  with  a  heavy,  groping  twilight.  But  as  soon  as  he  was 
fully  awake,  his  decision  to  get  up  was  taken.  The  bed  had 
grown  wrinkled  and  uncomfortable,  besides,  he  wanted  to  find 
out  why  nobody  had  been  near  him  all  day. 

He  dressed  clumsily,  taking  a  long  time.  He  was  not  as  well 
as  he  had  thought,  he  found— the  fever  had  made  him  lax,  and 
sweat  came  on  his  hands  when  he  bent  to  put  on  his  shoes.  How- 
ever, he  managed  things  at  last,  and  went  over  to  look  at  himself 
in  the  mirror.  His  cheeks  were  a  little  sunken,  and  his  hair 
lanker  than  he  would  have  liked,  but  otherwise  he  seemed  much 
as  usual.  The  effort  it  was  to  control  his  body  properly  did  not 
tell  in  the  glass.  He  would  go  downstairs  now.  He  would  go 
down  and  surprise  Sparta  with  the  news  of  his  recovery. 

It  would  be  more  difficult  to  get  downstairs  than  he  had  sup- 
posed. The  main  staircase  looked  long  and  formidable— he  looked 
at  it  and  wondered.  Then  he  remembered  the  other,  easier  stair- 
case, at  the  bottom  of  the  corridor,  that  led  directly  to  Dr.  Gen- 
tian's high-ceiled  study.  He  found  it  and  started  going  down— it 
was  dark  and  winding,  but  the  steps  were  shorter.  He  went 
gingerly  and  quietly,  for  fear  of  falling.  At  the  landing  he 
paused,  remembering,  with  a  smile,  Dr.  Gentian's  disquisition  on 
the  proposed  planetary  map  for  the  ceiling.  The  panel  that  slid 
back  behind  the  moon,  must  be  about  here— yes.  His  fingers  found 
the  catch.  Mechanically,  he  slid  it  open  and  peered  through  the 
little  round  opening  into  the  room  below. 

What  he  saw  made  his  fingers  shake  on  the  latch  of  the  panel. 
Sparta  Gentian  and  Mr.  Cave  were  seated  in  the  study,  talking. 
On  the  table  between  them  was  a  pair  of  candles  that  burnt  with 
a  still  flame,  glasses,  and  a  half-emptied  bottle  of  wine. 

"There's  no  heat  in  this  liquor,  Sparta,"  Cave  was  complain- 
ing in  his  grunting  accents.  "Why  can't  we  have  rum,  you  white 
doll?— you  know  well  enough  I'd  rather  have  rum."  His  coat  was 
pushed  back,  his  shirt  open  at  the  throat— his  whole  face  looked 
stupid  and  savage  as  the  mask  of  a  boar.  Andrew  saw  them  both 
very  plainly,  in  spite  of  the  gloom  in  the  room.  A  taste  like 


Spanish  Bayonet 

the  taste  of  bitter  aloes  came  into  his  mouth,  and  he  felt  his 
heart  turn  slowly  to  a  dull,  hard,  gleaming  stone. 

"You  can't  have  rum  because  I  choose  to  talk  to  you,  Charles— 
not  watch  you  fall  asleep  with  your  head  in  your  arms,"  Sparta's 
lyric  voice  had  never  been  more  flawed  with  crystal.  "If  the 
wine  doesn't  suit  you— spill  it  on  the  floor— I'll  wipe  it  up  with 
my  kerchief  and  wear  it  for  a  favor." 

"By  God,  I  believe  you  would,"  grumbled  Mr.  Cave,  reaching 
out  for  her  hand.  "You're  a  brave  wench,  Sparta.  Come  kiss  me 
for  a  brave  wench." 

"Not  now,"  said  Sparta  steadily.  "You  smell  too  much  of  your 
wine.  You've  had  enough  kisses  from  me  till  you  master  the 
world  and  make  me  proud  of  you." 

"You  lie,  you  golden  slut!"  said  Mr.  Cave,  and  thumped  his 
fist  on  the  table,  "I've  never  had  enough  of  your  kisses  yet— nor 
likely— unless  you've  grown  so  finicky-fine  this  last  month  you'd 
rather  have  that  sick  cat  in  yellow  breeches  squeeze  you  because 
he  sets  up  for  a  gentleman— the  shopkeeping  little  snotty-nose! 
Come  kiss  me,  I  say— I  want  to  get  the  taste  of  him  out  of  my 

"You're  a  sweet  fool,  Charles,"  said  Sparta,  and  went  around  to 
him.  Then  Andrew,  glaring  down  at  them  from  his  spy-hole, 
could  have  groaned  aloud,  for  he  saw  divinity  incarnate  sit  down 
on  Mr.  Cave's  knees  like  a  barmaid,  and  Mr.  Cave's  red  hand 
bend  back  the  golden  head  till  his  mouth  could  settle  with  thirsty 
violence  on  the  lips  that  Andrew  had  kissed  in  the  anguish  of 
a  boy's  first  worship.  The  sight  made  him  sick  and  faint,  but  he 
could  not  move  away.  A  bleak  fascination  held  him  to  the  hole 
in  back  of  the  moon,  through  which  he  beheld,  with  incredulous 
agony,  the  sky  of  his  self-made  universe  fall  to  pieces  with  a 
jangle  of  shattered  glass  and  lie  in  broken  stars  in  the  mud  at  the 
bottom  of  the  world. 

"There,"  said  Mr.  Cave.  "And  there,"  in  the  pauses  of  his  noisy 
embracements,  "that's  for  every  time  he's  paddled  with  your 
hand  in  the  dark— and  that's  for  every  pimping  New  York 
dolly-name  he's  ever  called  you!  Oh,  kiss  me,  you  jewel!"  he 
squeaked  in  a  sort  of  ecstasy.  "Kiss  me  and  tell  me  who  you 
love  with  all  your  body  and  bones!" 

"Enough,  Charles,  enough,"  said  Sparta,  drowsily,  her  voice 
very  golden.  "You  know  I  love  no  man  but  you." 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

"Well,  it's  time  and  more  that  I  heard  it,"  said  Cave,  releasing 
her.  He  seemed  to  grow  quite  simple,  of  a  sudden.  His  voice 
sank— his  mouth  drooped  like  a  child's.  "Where  do  you  think 
I've  been  since  you  two  were  betrothed?  In  hell.  In  the  pit  of 
hell.  They  lie  if  they  say  there's  no  hell— I  know— I've  smoked  in 
it.  To  see  him  walking  with  you,  with  his  hand  on  your  arm. 
You'd  best  be  true  with  me  now,  wench."  He  seemed  almost 
pleading,  "You'd  best  be  true." 

"I  am  true,  Charles." 

"But  you  betrothed—" 

She  made  a  gesture.  "Father,"  she  said. 

"I  know  your  father,"  said  Cave  sullenly.  "He's  a  planny  man, 
your  father.  He's  planned  to  marry  you  off  to  a  fool  with  money 
ever  since  you  were  husband-high." 

She  laughed  sharply.  "My  father  is  a  lucky  gentleman,"  shf 
said.  "He  may  have  planned— but  God  sent  him  the  perfect  fool 
How  can  anyone  be  so  utterly  a  fool  as  my  Andrew,  Charles?" 

"He  loves  you,"  Cave  admitted  grudgingly.  "A  man's  blinded, 
then."  He  stared  at  his  fist. 

"Granted,"  she  said,  jeeringly.  "But— if  you  think  you  have 
been  in  hell  Charles,  these  last  weeks— to  have  to  take  that  stam- 
mering boy  in  my  arms  and  give  him  his  lollypop  kisses—"  Her 
eyes  were  bright  with  hate,  "I  may  have  to  marry  him  yet— but 
if  I  do-" 

"If  you  do,  he'll  never  bed  you,"  said  Cave,  in  a  rigid  voice. 
"I'd  have  his  guts  on  the  floor  first." 

"No,"  said  Sparta,  with  an  edged  and  terrible  smile.  "He  may 
bed  me  yet,  Charles— perhaps— but— he  shan't  marry  me." 

"And  I  tell  you,"  said  Cave,  starting  up,  with  his  eyes  little, 
burning  holes. 

She  stopped  him  with  a  gesture.  "Hush,  Charles,"  she  said. 
"You  don't  understand  me  yet,  I'd  do  anything  for  you,  Charles. 
Sit  down  and  give  me  some  wine." 

He  obeyed,  muttering.  She  drank  the  wine  in  a  gulp  and  wiped 
her  lips. 

"Tell  me,  Charles,  how  soon  will  you  be  ready?" 

"I  have  my  men  picked  now,"  said  Cave,  in  a  thick  voice, 
"Italians  mostly.  They're  ripe.  They  hate  the  Mahonese  as  the 
devil  hates  church-bells." 

''And  the  Mahonese  are  ready  to  strike,  themselves?" 

Spanish  Bayonet 

"If  they're  not  they  have  no  bellies/'  said  Cave,  impatiently. 
"They've  been  pushed  to  the  wall.  You'd  think  they'd  have 
broken  before." 

"Very  well,"  said  Sparta,  calmly.  "The  Minorcans  revolt.  My 
father  cannot  subdue  them—unless  you  choose.  He  can't  get  aid 
from  the  governor— the  governor's  against  him.  If  you  choose—" 

"There's  a  price,"  said  Cave,  glowering.  "I  want  you.  I  want 
the  plantation.  He  wants  his  life  and— I'd  give  him  some  place,  I 
suppose.  If  he  doesn't  choose  it  that  way— By  the  way— what 
about  that  lover  of  yours?" 

"What  you  will,"  said  Sparta,  and  smiled. 

"I  know  what  I  will.  But  now,  sweetheart,  what  if  your  father 
will  not—" 

"I  would  not  have  you  too  much  concerned  about  my  father," 
said  Sparta,  reflectively. 

Cave  stared  at  her.  "By  God,  you're  a  cold  piece,"  he  said, 

"Not  to  you,  Charles."  She  rose  to  her  full  height.  "I'd  see 
you  a  king,  Charles— not  the  master  of  one  trifling  plantation 

"And  who  says  I  couldn't  be  a  king!"  said  Cave,  with  a  touch 
of  half-drunken  defiance.  "Haven't  bastards  been  kings  before. 
What  was  William  Conquer  but  a  common  bastard— yet  he  had 
all  England  under  his  teeth?  I'm  as  good  a  bastard  as  he  was, 
any  day— I  can—" 

uThen  be  a  king!"  she  said  in  a  voice  that  seemed  to  shake 
out  a  banner  with  a  dragon  on  it  above  the  quiet  yellow  spear- 
heads of  the  candles.  She  brought  her  clenched  hand  down  on  the 
table  as  if  she  wanted  to  bruise  its  softness  against  something 
hostile  and  hard.  "My  father  has  money  hidden  somewhere— he 
must— you  have  men— strength— we  could  take  ships— Davis  did  it 
—Teach  was  a  fool,  but  Morgan  did  it— There  are  pirate  king- 
doms, still— I  tell  you  this— 111  be  a  queen  or  nothing,  Charles— 
I  love  you  very  well,  but  I  must  be  a  queen— I'd  starve  for  it— 
I'd  burn  my  hand  in  the  flame  for  it— see— " 

Her  voice  sank  to  a  dry  whisper,  as  she  stretched  her  hand 
out  over  the  nearest  candle.  Cave  snatched  it  back,  at  once,  with 
a  terrified  wordless  sound.  Then  she  was  clinging  to  his  shoulders, 
pleading  with  him,  in  that  fierce,  brittle  monotone. 

"A  queen,  Charles— they  made  Harry  Morgan  a  governor— what 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

was  Spanish  Pizarro  but  a  pirate,  yet  he  held  Peru  like  a  king— 
the  time's  not  over  yet— a  queen,  Charles— and  you  a  king—" 

But,  "No,  lass— no— "  he  was  muttering  unsteadily,  trying  to 
seem  very  bold,  yet  with  shaken  eyes,  "you're  trying  me  with 
talk  like  that— 'tis  impossible— I'll  raise  the  colony  on  your  father 
right  enough— I'll  make  you  a  right  queen  here  if  that's  what 
you  want,  but  turn  pirate  against  the  world  and  end  in  the  hemp 
and  the  chains—" 

His  unsteady  hand  was  fumbling  with  her  hair,  trying  to  quiet 
her— she  had  sunk  to  the  floor  now,  and  was  gripping  his  knees, 
still  pleading. 

"Have  done,  girl— have  done!"  he  said,  in  weak  repetition  but 
she  would  not  be  quieted,  though  Mr.  Cave  was  now  fairly 
sweating  with  discomfort  and  surprise.  Further  protestation  was 
spared  him  for  the  moment,  for,  on  the  tail  of  his  last  sentence, 
the  door  opened  slowly  and  admitted  the  tall,  stately  figure  of 
Mrs.  Gentian  to  the  curious  scene.  Mr.  Cave  froze  at  once,  like 
a  rabbit  surprised  by  an  owl,  but  Sparta  rose  from  the  floor  with 
some  dignity  and  confronted  her  mother. 

"You  fool,"  said  the  latter,  slowly.  "You  bawdy  little  fool." 

To  Andrew,  at  his  stricken  post  of  observation,  her  voice  was 
clear  and  thin  as  the  voice  of  a  corpse  speaking  from  the  dust, 
and  he  felt  the  sweat  dry  on  his  hands  as  he  heard  it. 

She  turned  to  Mr.  Cave.  "Kennel,  dog!"  she  said,  tersely,  and 
Mr.  Cave,  after  one  blustering,  ineffective  gesture,  caught  a 
glance  from  Sparta,  and  passed  out  of  the  room  with  his  brow 
red  and  his  eyes  bent  on  the  floor.  Then  Mrs.  Gentian  eyed  her 

"You  madam,"  she  said,  without  rancor.  "You  madam  in  gauze. 
What  do  you  mean  by  chambering  here  with  that  lackey  when 
the  gentleman  you're  to  marry  lies  sick  in  his  bed  upstairs?" 

"Faith,  madam,"  said.  Sparta,  hardly,  giving  her  gaze  for  gaze. 
"It  must  run  in  the  blood,  I  think— for  my  father,  too,  has  a  liking 
for  the  servants'  hall." 

Mrs.  Gentian's  hand  went  slowly  to  her  breast,  but  her  face 
betrayed  no  emotion. 

"You're  indeed  his  very  daughter  to  say  that,"  she  said,  quietly, 
and  now  Sparta's  eyes  wavered  and  fell  before  hers.  "But  let  it 
be  so.  I've  heard  you  call  the  man  you're  to  marry  a  fool." 

"Do  you  disagree,  madam?" 

Spanish  Bayonet 

"Not  I,"  said  Mrs.  Gentian,  and  laughed.  "He's  a  puff  of 
painted  feathers— I'll  buy  his  like  for  six-pence  at  a  Punch-and- 
Judy.  But,  fool  or  no  fool,  he's  rich,  or  his  father  is.  Your  father 
needs  those  riches—and  no  hot  little  miss  like  you  is  going  to 
lecher  him  out  of  them.  Do  you  understand,  miss?" 

"I  had  not  thought  you  so  greatly  attached  to  my  father,"  said 
Sparta  in  a  stabbing  voice. 

"God  knows  I'm  not,"  said  her  mother,  tiredly.  "But  I'll  not  see 
him  humbled." 

"And  is  it  your  proposal,  madam,  that  I  should—" 

"I  propose  this,"  said  Mrs.  Gentian.  Her  hand  fell  upon  Sparta's 
shoulder  and  held  it.  "If  this  ninny  you're  to  marry  once  knew 
what's  passed  between  you  and  that  lawyer's  by-blow— he'd 
throw  you  aside  like  an  applecore  for  all  his  ninnyishness.  You 
must  fasten  him  to  you  by  his  ninny's  honor  or  lose  him.  You'll 
have  him  in  your  room,  miss— as  soon  as  he  can  walk— oh,  I'll 
trust  you  for  that— you  have  ways  that  would  blind  a  sailor— but 
that  you'll  do.  After  that—"  Her  smile  was  an  East  wind.  "Let 
him  marry  you  or  keep  you— it  matters  little— we  have  him  in  a 

Andrew  could  bear  no  more.  He  shut  the  panel  with  fumbling 
fingers  and  somehow  got  up  the  stairs  and  back  to  his  room. 
When  he  reached  there,  he  found  the  Minorcan  girl,  just  done 
with  tidying  his  room  and  about  to  leave.  She  gave  a  soft  cry 
as  she  saw  his  face. 

"Oh,  go  away,  go  away!"  he  sobbed  wildly,  as  he  flung  himself 
into  a  chair  and  put  his  head  in  his  hands.  "Go  away  and  pray 
for  me,  Caterina— I  think  I  am  the  unhappiest  man  in  the  world!" 


Andrew  lay  on  his  bed,  staring  up  at  the  ceiling  with  tor- 
mented eyes.  He  had  thought  he  had  known  shock  before,  when 
his  father's  easy  voice  abolished  the  Beards  of  Westmoreland 
with  a  sentence.  But  that  half-forgotten  wound  in  the  vanity  of 
youth  seemed  like  a  wound  in  silk  to  this  present  pain.  Again  he 
felt  the  solid  floor  of  life  turn  under  him  dizzily  and  alter— but 
this  time  it  did  not  merely  change,  it  blackened  while  he  looked 
at  it  to  the  color  of  corrupted  silver  and  soiled  thunder  walked 
in  iron  wherever  he  could  see.  The  knowledge  of  good  and  evil 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

had  descended  upon  him  at  last,  and  he  lay  excruciated  beneath 
it,  like  a  harper  crucified  upon  the  strings  of  his  own  heart. 

That  his  pain  might  well  have  seemed  unnecessarily  acute  to 
any  dispassionate  observer  would  hardly  have  consoled  him,  had 
he  known  it.  He  saw  the  whole  world  now  as  a  lie,  which  it  was 
no  more  than  it  ever  had  been.  But  circumstance  had  mixed  in 
him  the  fool  and  the  gentleman— qualities  both  somewhat  in  dis- 
repair nowadays— and  at  present,  no  doubt,  the  gentleman  was 
somewhat  sunk  in  the  fool.  The  cold  brain  of  heaven,  whose 
thought  is  a  falling  star  between  illusion  and  illusion,  might 
properly  regard  his  adolescent  strugglings  with  befitting  con- 
tempt but  that  task  of  scorn  may,  perhaps,  be  left  to  it. 

A  certain,  stale  equanimity  returned  to  him  at  last.  He  was  still 
dazed  and  shaken  but  he  began  to  think.  At  one  moment  he  was 
quite  confident  that  what  he  had  seen  in  Dr.  Gentian's  study 
was  merely  a  nightmare  of  the  mind— at  another  that  Sparta,  for 
some  inexplicable  reason,  had  been  playing  a  game  upon  the  sullen 
Mr.  Cave.  But  truth  seeped  in  gradually  through  his  defenses  and 
at  last  he  stood  ready  to  accept  the  fact. 

Seen  clearly,  the  situation  was  only  too  plausible.  He  had  often 
thought  humbly  enough,  that  it  was  strange  that  Sparta  should 
love  him,  and  strange  that  she  should  never  have  loved  before. 
Well,  she  had  loved  before,  that  was  all,  and  if  she  chose  to  gar- 
land an  ass  with  roses,  such  was  her  prerogative.  It  seemed  curious 
to  Andrew  that  this  wise  and  reasonable  thought  brought  him  so 
little  relief.  He  began  to  consider  just  what  there  was  to  be  done. 

He  must  get  away  from  New  Sparta.  But  then  he  shuddered 
—he  and  Sparta  were  still  betrothed,  as  much  as  they  ever  had 
been,  he  remembered  with  sudden  pain.  It  hardly  lay  with  de- 
cency to  call  her  a  slut  to  her  father's  face— yet  what  other  reason 
could  he  give  for  so  sudden  a  departure?  Then  there  was  Mr. 
Cave's  mad  plan  of  an  uprising  in  the  colony— a  driving  of  the 
Minorcans  to  revolt.  Admitted,  he  now  owed  Dr.  Gentian  little 
but  the  hate  of  a  bamboozled  sailor  for  his  crimp— the  Minorcans 
were  still  his  friends— Sebastian— he  could  not  go  without  warn- 
ing them.  Now  indeed  he  felt  a  net  on  his  body  and  struggled 
at  the  cords  in  futile  disgust.  His  struggles  were  interrupted  by  a 
light  knock  at  the  door.  He  called.  The  door  opened.  Sparta  was 

1 80 

Spanish  Bayonet 

"Why  Andrew,  dear,"  she  said,  looking  at  him  in  affectionate 
surprise.  "I  thought  to  find  you  still  in  bed  with  the  fever  and 
bring  you  your  supper.  But  you  are  well  again— and  I  am  so 

Her  voice  was  the  same  dropping  skein  of  gold-and-crystal  that 
he  remembered— the  same  enchanter  slept  in  her  eyes. 

He  looked  at  her  a  long  time.  No,  he  could  not  talk  to  her  now. 

uMy  fever's  gone,"  he  said  at  last.  "I  think  I'll  come  down  to 
supper,  if  you'll  call  the  boy  to  lend  me  his  arm." 

He  was  sitting  at  table  in  Dr.  Gentian's  chair.  The  room  had 
not  changed  its  aspect— the  fruit-piece  by  Vanderrnoulen  still 
hung  above  the  sideboard  where  silver  glimmered  in  the  candle- 
shine.  The  ladies  he  supped  with  took  peaches  from  a  bowl  and 
peeled  them  delicately  with  silver  knives.  There  was  no  mark 
upon  their  white  hands  like  the  mark  of  a  bloody  paw— the  wine 
in  the  decanter  at  his  elbow  seemed  excellent  St.  Lucar,— he  could 
savor  its  bouquet  quite  naturally.  That  was  odd,  thought  Andrew 
dully,  as  he  ate  and  drank  and  talked.  He  felt  vaguely  that  things 
should  have  been  different— more  in  keeping  with  the  tiny,  per- 
sistent sound  that  tapped  like  blood  flowing  from  a  wound  con- 
tinually inside  his  head.  He  had  yet  to  realize  that  tragedy  may 
occur  in  a  bandbox  and  that  horror  needs  no  set  apparatus  of 
skeletons  to  make  the  bones  feel  cold. 

It  was  odd  too,  that  he  should  be  eating  and  drinking.  He 
watched  his  knife  cut  a  piece  of  meat,  his  fork  carry  it  to  his 
mouth.  The  hand  did  not  falter  at  all,  nor  the  throat  refuse  to 
swallow.  All  his  muscles  obeyed  him  handily— it  was  clever  of 
them.  He  could  question  and  reply  in  a  normal  voice— he  found 
himself  listening  with  every  appearance  of  attention  to  a  long, 
tedious  account  by  Mrs.  Gentian  of  some  customs  of  the  Span- 
iards in  St.  Augustine. 

It  appeared  there  was  one  called  "Shooting  the  Jews."  Oil  the 
Saturday  morning  after  Good  Friday,  when  the  bells  rang  halle- 
lujah from  the  Cathedral,  the  Spanish  inhabitants  would  shoot  at 
straw  dummies  labelled  Judas  and  Caiaphas,  hung  up  at  the 
corners  of  certain  streets.  Really,  how  interesting,  he  heard  him- 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

self  saying,  while  privately  he  searched  Mrs.  Gentian's  calm  face 
for  any  signature  which  might  betray  that  she  had  been  born  in 
hell  and  was  surprised  to  find  none  there. 

So  the  servants  went  and  came,  and  plates  were  laid  and  re- 
moved, with  the  passage  of  innumerable  minutes,  till  the  world 
grew  old  and  white  and  tottered  upon  a  dry  branch  like  a  dying 
cripple,  and  a  stone  hardened  in  Andrew's  breast,  and  three 
people  sat  enchanted  around  a  long  table,  peeling  peaches  and 
putting  the  flesh  of  peaches  in  their  mouths.  At  last  it  was  over, 
and  he  was  left  with  his  wine. 

He  arranged  nuts  on  the  table,  very  carefully,  in  a  cross,  in 
a  square,  in  the  initials  of  his  brother's  name.  His  mind  seemed 
to  have  room  for  nothing  but  the  exactitude  of  their  patterns. 
He  could  think  consecutively  no  longer— he  was  tired  of  thinking. 

A  nut  rolled  away  from  under  his  hand,  and  he  cursed  it 
whiningly  and  replaced  it  in  its  design  with  nice  deliberation. 
Presently  he  would  go  up  to  his  room  with  the  India  chintz 
hangings,  and,  if  he  had  his  wish,  would  die  among  its  printed 
flowers  like  an  insect  crushed  between  leaves  of  painted  paper. 
But  that  would  not  happen— people  did  not  die  as  easily  as  that. 

Mrs.  Gentian  and  Sparta  had  watched  each  other  all  through 
the  meal  like  cat  and  cat.  A  detached  part  of  his  consciousness 
told  him  that  now,  in  the  lifeless  voice  of  a  boy  repeating  a  dull 
lesson.  And,  for  once,  Mrs.  Gentian  had  seemed  the  stronger 
of  the  two.  Did  that  mean  anything— if  it  did,  he  was  too  tired  to 
think  what  it  might  mean. 

Presently  he  was  pleading  fatigue  to  the  ladies  and  climbing 
the  stairs  to  his  room.  The  shadows  wavered  in  the  corridor  be- 
fore his  candle.  He  wished,  vaguely,  that  he  could  see  that 
Minorcan  girl,  now,  as  he  had  first  seen  her,  coming  toward  him 
like  the  image  of  a  barbarous  saint  walking  the  sea,  the  light  of 
a  single  candle  ghostly  upon  the  darkness  of  her  brows.  But  even 
if  she  did  come,  she  would  turn  to  something  evil  as  soon  as  he 
touched  her.  All  things  turned  to  evil  the  moment  they  were 
touched.  There  was  evil  in  the  very  particles  of  the  air,  an  im- 
palpable dust  of  black  glass,  and  people  took  it  into  their  lungs 
and  turned  into  dolls  of  spoilt  stra^v  and  rotten  leather  that  fell 
to  pieces  as  they  moved. 

Sebastian's  thunder  was  coming.  He  could  hear  it  growl  in  the 
distance  like  a  dog  on  a  chain.  The  thought  of  the  bright  blade 


Spanish  Bayonet 

of  lightning  gave  him  a  little  ease— that  at  least  was  clean,  and 
could  run  sick  arrogance  to  the  heart. 

He  was  sitting,  still  dressed,  in  a  chair  in  his  room.  Time  had 
passed,  but  how  long  a  time  he  did  not  know.  The  candle  on 
the  table  burnt  unevenly,  with  a  smoky  flame.  The  house  was 
quiet— the  thunder  nearer  at  hand. 

He  passed  his  hand  over  his  forehead  and  tried  to  collect  his 
thoughts.  The  heat  in  his  brain  like  the  throb  of  blood  from  a 
spent  artery,  had  eased  a  little  now— he  was  still  in  stupor,  but 
the  weight  of  it  was  not  so  extreme.  He  began  to  realize  that, 
whatever  else  might  have  happened  to  him,  the  fever  was  not  yet 
wholly  gone  from  his  body.  He  must  sleep— after  he  had  slept, 
the  beat  in  his  head  might  stop. 

He  was  about  to  rise  when  his  eyes  were  drawn  to  the  door. 
It  was  opening— a  crack— a  gap— letting  in  soft  blackness.  He 
stared  at  it,  without  fear  or  surprise.  It  might  be  Death— if  it 
were,  he  would  not  lift  a  hand. 

A  hand,  a  bare  arm,  came  slowly  out  of  the  darkness.  The  hand 
held  a  white  flower  between  its  fingers.  It  was  Sparta's  hand. 

After  what  seemed  a  long  time,  "Andrew,"  said  Sparta's  voice, 
in  a  low  call.  He  shut  his  teeth  and  would  not  answer.  There 
( was  silence,  while  the  hand  moved  a  little  and  the  curtains  waved 
in  the  draft.  Then,  "Andrew,"  said  the  voice  again— the  fine  gold 
streaking  the  crystal  with  threads  of  radiance.  Then  hand  and 
flower  were  slowly  withdrawn  and  the  door  closed  gradually, 
leaving  Andrew  staring  like  a  blind  man  at  where  they  had  been. 

His  pistols  lay  on  the  table  near  him,  in  their  case.  He  took 
one  of  them  out  and  examined  it  slowly,  with  minute  care.  The 
priming  needed  to  be  changed— this  damp  weather  ruined  one's 
priming.  But  he  made  no  move  to  change  it.  He  fiddled  with  the 
trigger  a  moment,  a  childish  look  on  his  face,  not  thinking  of 
anything;  then  he  forgot  why  he  had  taken  up  the  pistol,  and 
stuck  it  in  his  pocket  to  get  it  out  of  the  way.  His  hands  relaxed 
—the  spinning  in  his  mind  began  to  slacken,  like  a  top  running 

After  another  while,  he  rose,  stiffly,  and  smiled.  The  stupor  had 
passed  from  him— he  knew  what  he  would  do.  If  the  world  were 
colored  like  a  bat  he  would  take  the  color  of  the  world.  He 
would  take  the  instant  of  brisk  desire  for  the  image  seen  in  a 
cloud  and  know  in  its  entirety  the  damnation  of  possession  and 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

the  wittiness  of  the  flesh.  He  would  despoil  as  he  had  been 
despoiled  and  lose  the  rags  of  gold  he  had  brought  from  fool's 
paradise  in  the  quick  heat  of  the  blood  as  a  wise  man  should. 

A  sudden  glare  of  heat  lightning  showed  his  face  to  him  in  the 
mirror.  It  was  haggard  and  strange,  but  he  smiled  at  it  and  went 
to  the  door.  Down  the  corridor,  packed  with  bags  of  darkness, 
lay  another  door  with  a  white  flower  before  it,  and  he  was 
going  there  to  sleep  with  a  ghost. 



All  along  the  corridor,  utter  night  lay  reclined  like  the  body 
of  a  great,  black  cat,  asleep  with  its  head  on  its  heavy  paws.  He 
went  softly— to  his  dizzy  mind  it  seemed  as  if  at  any  moment  his 
feet  might  sink  into  dark,  sleek  fur  and  a  bristling,  gigantic  back 
hump  up  uneasily  beneath  them.  The  corridor  seemed  much 
longer  than  it  did  in  daylight— why  had  he  blown  out  the  candle 
in  his  room?  He  had  come  some  distance  and  still  he  could  see 
no  door  with  a  white  flower  before  it— he  must  have  passed  it, 
somehow,  in  this  place  where  darkness  was  a  mask  of  black 
satin  across  the  eyes. 

He  turned  about,  as  he  thought,  and  started  to  grope  his  way 
back,  with  his  hands  out  before  him.  They  touched  against  a 
wall.  He  grew  confused  and  stopped,  trying  to  fix  the  points  of 
the  compass  in  his  head.  He  turned  again,  walked  forward  and 
came  up  against  another  wall— the  corridor  was  gone— he  was 
trapped  in  a  narrowing  box  of  velvet  and  ebony  whose  sides 
shut  in  around  him  like  a  closing  fist.  The  ludicrous  aspect  of  the 
situation  did  not  strike  him— he  had  passed  beyond  humor— his 
mind  was  a  sharpened  point  that  had  given  itself  entirely  to  the 
pull  of  a  dark  lodestone  and  now  wished  with  all  its  strength 
to  touch  that  lodestone  and  cease.  He  stood  perfectly  still  for  a 
long  moment  before  the  unreasonable  wall  that  had  so  suddenly 
risen  up  in  front  of  him,  angry,  ridiculous,  impotent,  and  more 
than  a  little  afraid. 

Ah,  he  had  it  at  last.  He  turned  to  the  left  and  moved  forward 
—right— the  wall  was  gone.  Sparta's  chamber  must  be  farther 


Spanish  Bayonet 

along,  on  the  other  side  of  the  cross-corridor—he  would  find  it 
now.  A  sound  would  have  helped  him  greatly— but  there  was  no 
sound  at  all  in  the  buried  world  through  which  he  moved  but 
thunder  rattling  the  iron  roof  of  heaven  and  the  creeping  noise 
of  his  own  shoes.  No,  wait  a  moment.  There  was  another  sound. 

There  was  another  sound,  faint  and  distant,  as  if  it  came 
through  mufflings  of  black  wool,  but  distinct  enough  when  he 
listened  for  it,  a  sound  made  by  some  creature  in  pain.  He  paused 
and  listened  intently.  At  first  he  could  not  fix  its  direction.  It 
seemed  to  come  at  once  from  everywhere  and  from  nowhere,  as 
if  the  encompassing  and  shadowy  air  of  night  itself  were  whis- 
pering to  itself  in  quietness  a  single,  monotonous  word  of  obscure 
anguish.  Then  at  last,  after  much  time,  he  traced  it  down.  The 
sound  came  from  above,  it  was  the  voice  of  the  Minorcan  girl, 
and  she  was  calling  "Water,  water,  water,"  very  slowly  and 
weakly,  as  if  her  throat  were  small  with  pain. 

He  stood  irresolute  for  a  few  seconds,  the  blood  thudding  in 
his  head.  Something  hot  and  stinging  began  to  die  from  his  veins. 
"Water,  water,  water,"  said  the  thread  of  breath  from  above,  in 
desolate  supplication.  He  remembered  a  mole  he  had  seen  once, 
after  dogs  had  worried  it—it  lay  on  its  side,  half-dead,  and  made 
much  the  same  feeble,  pitiful  outcry,  thin  and  incessant  as  the 
creak  of  a  locust.  He  had  been  ready  for  desire  and  hate— for 
Death  playing  knucklebones  with  his  joints  in  a  corner— but  for 
this  he  had  not  been  ready.  He  could  not  go  to  Sparta  with  that 
haunted  outcry  in  his  ears. 

He  turned  again,  and  bruised  his  shin  against  the  bottom  step 
of  a  stair.  He  knew  where  he  was,  then— he  had  strayed  into  the 
cross-corridor  by  mistake— the  servants'  quarters  were  above. 
"Water,"  said  the  voice,  and  choked.  He  started  to  climb  the  stair. 

The  thread  of  voice  led  him  to  a  closed  door.  He  tried  it— it  was 
locked  but  the  key  was  on  the  outside.  Then,  just  at  the  point  of 
unlocking  it,  he  paused.  What  was  he  doing  here— he  was  looking 
for  another  door,  a  door  with  a  flower  before  it.  He  had  not 
come  all  this  way  with  a  black  hand  muffing  his  face  to  comfort 
a  serving-wench  in  the  throes  of  a  bad  dream.  He  started  to  turn 
back,  but  as  he  did  so,  "Water,"  said  the  crucified  voice  again, 
and  the  accents  were  not  those  of  an  imaginary  anguish.  He 
cursed  himself  for  a  fool,  and  turned  the  key. 

At  first  he  could  see  little  in  the  room  but  the  pale  square  of 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

the  window.  Then,  outside,  a  jagged  thornbush  of  lightning  flow- 
ered for  an  instant  and  vanished,  and  in  its  abrupt  glare,  brief  as 
the  flashing  of  powder,  he  saw  the  Minorcan  girl  standing  upright 
against  the  foot  of  her  bed.  But  now  she  seemed  much  taller  than 
he  had  thought  her.  She  was  standing  on  tiptoe— why  was  she 
standing  on  tiptoe,  and  why  were  her  arms  stretched  up  stiffly 
over  her  head?  Then  she  gave  an  inarticulate  groan  and  he  real- 
ized, with  a  shock,  that  she  was  bound,  and  suspended  from  the 
ceiling  by  a  cord  tied  round  her  wrists  so  that  the  tips  of  her 
toes  just  brushed  the  floor. 

He  ran  over  to  her  and  tried  to  lift  her  up  in  his  arms.  She 
gave  a  moan  of  relief  or  pain  and  her  head  drooped  suddenly  on 
his  shoulder.  Then  he  was  trying  to  raise  her  with  one  arm  and 
pick  at  the  knots  in  the  cord  with  his  other  hand.  "Knife,"  he 
kept  whispering  to  himself,  inanely.  "Knife.  Knife.  Knife. 
Where's  knife?"  It  seemed  hours  before  the  knife  was  out  of  his 
pocket  and  the  cord  frayed  apart. 

He  caught  her  in  his  arms.  Her  body  was  loose  and  heavy  as 
the  body  of  a  rebellious  child— she  had  fainted  with  exhaustion 
and  pain.  Staggeringly,  he  lifted  her  on  the  bed  and  laid  her 
down  as  comfortably  as  he  could.  She  stirred  a  little  and  sighed. 
"Agua"  she  said,  in  a  whisper.  He  found  some  water  in  a  ewer, 
splashed  it  clumsily  on  her  face,  wet  her  lips  with  it.  Outside  the 
thunder  grew  fainter  and  rain  began  to  fall  in  a  black,  streaming 
torrent.  He  did  not  notice  it.  He  knew  only  that  he  would  never 
breathe  easily  again,  if  he  did  not  bring  back  to  life,  if  but  for  an 
instant,  this  slight,  defiant  flesh,  austere  now,  coldly  wrapped  in 
the  husk  of  a  darker  flower  than  Sleep's. 

She  came  back  to  consciousness,  grudgingly,  like  a  child  learn- 
ing to  walk,  like  a  visitor  long-detained  by  a  gift  of  pomegran- 
ates at  a  stony  threshold  and  still  half -unwilling  to  return.  At  last 
she  was  strong  enough  to  sit  up  and  make  the  woman's  automatic 
gesture  at  arranging  her  hair. 

"Thank  Christ,"  said  Andrew,  shakily,  hardly  knowing  what 
he  said,  "I  thought  you  werfc  dead." 

"I  was  dead,"  said  the  Minorcan  girl,  and  smiled  a  little.  "How 
did  you  know?" 

"I  heard  you— in  the  corridor— you  were  crying—" 

She  bit  her  lips.  "They  hurt  my  hands,"  she  said,  looking  at 
them.  "They  hurt  my  hands." 


Spanish  Bayonet 

"Who  did  it?"  said  Andrew,  voice  and  body  cold. 

"She  said  I  was  her  husband's  strumpet,"  said  the  Minorcan 
girl,  her  eyes  very  black  in  the  darkness.  "She  said  she'd  teach 
me.  Then  she  got  Mr.  Cave." 

"I  think  I  shall  kill  Mr.  Cave,"  said  Andrew.  "But  your— the 
other  servants— they  must  have  heard— Good  God— the  key  was 
in  the  door—" 

"They  are  Greeks,"  said  the  Minorcan  girl.  "Touch  a  Greek 
and  you  touch  a  rat.  Besides—they  are  hers  and  Mr.  Cave's." 

"They  are  devils,"  said  Andrew,  sobbingly.  "This  is  a  house  of 
devils— oh,  a  house  of  devils—" 

"Listen,"  said  the  Minorcan  girl,  with  that  smile  that  set  her 
apart  from  him,  in  a  circle  of  antique  and  savage  stones.  "Even 
yet,  you  do  not  know."  And,  sitting  on  the  bed,  while  the  rain 
slashed  at  the  window,  and  Andrew  dabbed  at  her  bloody  wrists 
with  a  torn  handkerchief,  she  began,  quite  quietly,  her  recital  of 
five  years'  wrong.  There  was  no  passion  in  the  sentences— if  there 
had  been  Andrew  felt  he  could  have  borne  their  impact  more 
easily.  There  was  only  the  calm,  insistent  pulse  of  her  even  voice, 
throbbing  slowly  in  the  darkness  like  the  beating  of  the  wings 
of  a  tired  bird. 

"So  they  hanged  the  priest  in  his  robes,  on  a  wooden  post,  and 
stuck  a  piece  of  bread  in  his  mouth  to  mock  him,"  her  voice 
tolled  gravely.  It  was  the  unforgivable  sin.  "After  that—" 

"Oh,  for  God's  sake,  Caterina— for  God's  sake—"  stammered 
Andrew,  excruciated  beyond  his  strength.  "Can't  we  get  away 
from  this  house— tonight— in  the  rain— they  can't  hear  us  in  the 
rain— there  are  horses  in  the  stable— we'll  ride  to  St.  Augustine- 
tell  the  governor— he'll  help  us— my  father's  rich— we'll  take 
Sebastian,  too— Oh,  come,  Caterina,  come—"  He  was  pulling  at 
her  hands.  She  clenched  her  teeth,  and  he  realized  that  he  had 
hurt  her. 

"How  can  I  ride,  with  my  hands?"  she  said,  helplessly. 

"I'll  tie  you  to  the  saddle— you  can  ride  pillion  behind  Sebas- 
tian or  me— you  must,  Caterina— you  must— we  can't  stay  here 
any  more—"  He  was  pleading  with  her  now,  as  if  for  some  salva- 
tion of  spirit  that  lay  hidden  between  her  hands  like  a  coral 
amulet.  Her  face  was  serene  as  she  listened.  She  made  a  little 

"Wait,"  she  said,  and  rose  from  the  bed.  When  she  was  on  her 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

feet  she  swayed  for  an  instant.  "Ah,  Dios,"  she  said,  under  her 
breath.  Andrew  offered  her  his  shoulder,  but  she  put  him  aside 
and  walked  slowly  over  to  the  other  end  of  the  room.  There  was 
a  little  shrine  there— a  cheap,  plaster  image  of  the  Virgin.  Her 
robes  had  been  gaudily  colored  in  staring  blues  and  reds  but  they 
were  mildewed  now  and  the  colors  were  faint  and  gentle.  A  tiny 
wick  burned  in  a  small  cup  of  rancid  oil  at  her  feet.  (Caterina 
sank  to  her  knees. 

"Madre  de  Dios— Mary  Virgin— Tower  of  Ivory— House  of 
Gold—"  she  began,  in  Mahonese,  in  a  soft,  lulling  voice.  Andrew 
watched  her  perplexedly  from  the  bed.  The  scene  touched  him 
with  pity  and  grief,  but  it  was  something  he  could  not  under- 
stand. He  would  have  been  glad  enough  to  kneel  beside  Caterina 
himself  and  pray,  if  he  had  thought  it  would  bring  her  any  com- 
fort, but  there  was  something  in  the  absorption  of  her  eyes,  as 
she  gazed  at  the  tawdry  little  doll  with  a  tarnished  crown,  that 
made  her  incomprehensible.  It  belonged,  with  the  flower  of  the 
Spanish  bayonet,  to  an  earth  that  was  not  his— an  earth  in  which 
he  would  always  be  a  stranger.  And  yet,  as  the  mutter  of  the 
prayer  went  on,  he  knew  that  he  did  not  wish  to  be  a  stranger 
to  that  alien,  enchanted  ground* 

When  Caterina  had  finished,  and  crossed  herself,  with  head 
bowed,  she  came  back  to  him. 

"Yes.  I  will  come,"  she  said.  Their  (eyes  met— for  an  instant  he 
seemed  to  see  behind  hers,  into  her  Heart.  There  was  a  message 
there,  clear  and  pure  as  if  air  had  written  it  on  a  tablet  of  moun- 
tain-snow, but  a  message  he  could  not  read,  for  it  was  written 
in  her  language,  and  to  him  the  characters  of  that  language  were 
mysterious  as  marks  carved  upon  a  druid  stone.  He  stared  for  an 
instant,  vainly— hoping  for  a  Pentecost  that  did  not  descend.  Then 
the  veil  fell  between  them  again. 

They  crept  down  the  stairs  together,  hand  in  hand,  like  chil- 
dren afraid  of  the  dark.  When  they  got  to  the  long  corridor,  she 
turned  to  go  down  it  but  he  held  her  back.  "No.  Not  that  way," 
he  said.  He  felt  suddenly  as  if  he  could  not  bear  to  stumble  past 
the  door  with  the  white  flower,  even  to  get  his  other  pistol  and 
his  father's  letters.  He  was  in  a  torment  of  impatience  to  leave 
the  coquina  house  behind  him  forever.  There  must  be  arms  in 
Dr.  Gentian's  study— besides,  there  was  less  chance  of  arousing 
the'  house  if  they  went  through  there. 


Spanish  Bayonet 

He  smiled.  The  high  chamber  with  the  gold  stars  in  its  ceiling 
which  had  seen  his  imaginary  Eden  crumble  to  ash  should  be  the 
instrument  of  their  deliverance  from  this  house  of  pain.  He  led 
the  way  slowly  to  the  hidden  stair. 

When  they  had  reached  the  panel  behind  the  moon,  an  instinct 
of  precaution  made  him  slide  it  back  and  look.  So,  for  the  second 
time  that  day,  an  odd  vision  was  vouchsafed  him. 

Dr.  Gentian  stood  in  front  of  the  fireplace,  warming  his  hands. 
He  must  have  been  but  newly  come  from  the  road,  for  his 
muddy  boots  were  set  in  a  corner  to  dry  and  his  riding-coat, 
stretched  out  on  a  chair  before  the  fire,  was  streaked  and  spat- 
tered. He  himself,  however,  was  as  neat  and  trim  as  ever.  He 
had  changed  his  muddied  coat  for  a  loose  dressing-gown  and  his 
boots  for  soft  Moorish  slippers,  worked  with  gold  thread  and 
turned  up  in  stiff  petals  at  the  toes.  On  his  head  was  a  turban  of 
yellow  silk,  such  as  many  gentlemen  who  had  served  in  the 
Indies  affected,  and  he  rubbed  his  hands  over  and  over  each  other 
like  a  fly  cleaning  its  wings,  as  he  talked  to  himself  in  a  low, 
quick  voice  and  smiled  at  the  fire. 

Andrew  could  feel  the  Minorcan  girl's  whole  body  shudder 
against  his  for  an  instant  and  then  grow  still.  "The  gold  cap!" 
she  whispered  in  the  voice  of  a  beaten  ghost.  "He  has  on  the 
gold  cap.  We  shall  never  get  free  of  him  now." 

"Nonsense,"  said  Andrew,  though  he  too  was  oddly  affected 
by  the  sight  of  that  spruce,  quaint  figure  crowned  with  an  in- 
verted tulip-flower,  smiling  dimly  and  talking  under  its  breath  to 
a  burning  log.  "We'll  take  the  other  stairs."  He  shut  the  panel 
and  started  to  go  back.  But  a  few  steps  away  from  the  upper 
door,  he  stopped  and  listened.  There  were  footsteps  in  the  corri- 
dor, a  light  step  and  a  heavy  one,  going  to  and  fro  like  the  pace 
of  sentries  on  guard. 

"They  are  looking  for  me  already,"  said  the  Minorcan  girl, 
slowly,  with  a  calm  despair. 

Andrew  hesitated,  feeling  the  lips  of  a  velvet  trap  close  slowly 
upon  them  both  in  the  narrow  darkness.  Then  he  made  up  his 
mind.  Better  face  Caesar  in  his  study  than  chance  what  might  be 
in  the  upper  corridor.  His  mind  stuck  on  the  thought  that  the 
house  had  orders  not  to  disturb  the  Doctor  when  he  wished  quiet 
and  that  there  was  deadening  in  the  walls  of  the  high-ceiled 
chamber.  His  hand  slid  to  the  butt  of  his  pistol— he  had  never 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

killed  a  man— what  was  it  like  when  you  killed  a  man?  He  saw 
Caesar  sprawled  in  front  of  the  fire  with  blood  on  his  neck— a 
little  flame  stole  out  shyly  from  a  log  and  licked  at  the  yellow 
turban.  He  shivered.  Fool,  he  was  wasting  time.  "We'll  risk  it," 
he  said  hoarsely,  and  went  sneaking  down  the  stairs  again. 

At  their  foot,  he  paused.  The  Minorcan  girl  was  on  the  step 
behind  him— he  could  hear  the  flutter  of  her  breath.  Beyond,  in 
the  study,  was  another  sound— Dr.  Gentian's  voice,  plainer  now. 

At  first  Andrew  thought  some  one  else  must  have  come  into 
the  room— the  Doctor's  tones  were  the  tones  of  a  man  talking  in- 
timately to  a  familiar  friend.  He  put  his  eyes  to  a  crack  in  the 
door.  He  could  see  little,  but  no  other  form  than  the  Doctor's 
crossed  the  range  of  his  vision.  Then  he  realized  that  though  the 
Doctor's  voice  questioned  and  affirmed  and  at  times  even  pleaded, 
as  if  the  friend  he  addressed  were  a  superior  in  rank,  there  was 
never  any  reply. 

The  voice  went  on  and  on.  "I  saw  Baron  Funck  in  London,"  it 
said.  "He  took  me  into  a  room  full  of  silver  candlesticks  and 
swore  he  would  show  me  a  secret,  but  the  only  secret  he  showed 
me  was  a  juggler's  trick.  Then  there  was  Hauptzchn  in  Dresden 
—he  had  Lully's  book  but  he  did  not  have  the  key.  The  Rose- 
Cross  is  nothing— they  pretend  to  make  diamonds  but  they  do  not 
know  the  writing  on  the  wall  of  the  tabernacle  or  the  tears  of  the 
Golden  King.  In  India  I  have  seen  the  man  climb  the  rope  and 
the  flower  rise  from  the  dust  and  go  back  again— I  have  seen 
the  basket  thrust  through  with  swords— but  I  wish  more  than 
that.  Am  I  not  an  Initiate?  Have  I  not  heard  the  goat  cry  in  the 
dark  and  scattered  the  herb  in  the  fire?  I  cannot  seek  elsewhere 
again— I  have  grown  too  old."  The  voice  had  a  note  of  chant, 
now.  "There  is  something  buried  at  the  roots  of  the  mountains 
—why  can  I  not  put  my  hand  on  it?  Bacon  had  the  knowledge 
they  say— am  I  so  much  less  wise?  I  will  not  fool  myself  with 
crystals  and  black  wafers— these  things  are  folly,  but  there  is 
something  left— something  beyond  the  speculum— behind  the 
glass.  I  will  give  my  soul  for  it,  I  tell  you— I  will  give  my  soul 
for  it."  Now  the  tones  were  those  of  a  merchant  driving  a  canny 
bargain.  "1  can  give  you  a  thousand  souls.  You  are  foolish  not  to 
bargain  with  me.  Come  out  of  the  fire,  Baphomet— Baphomet— 
Baphomet— "  the  voice  reached  a  shriek  of  supplication.  "Come 
out  of  the  fire,  Baphomet,  and  buy  my  souls!" 


Spanish  Bayonet 

Through  his  crack,  Andrew  saw  the  yellow  turban  waver  and 
droop  in  fatigue  like  a  crocus  beaten  by  the  wind.  Now.  He  flung 
open  the  door  and  stepped  into  the  room  with  his  pistol  clutched 
tight  in  sweating  fingers. 

The  shock  of  his  abrupt  appearance,  to  a  gentleman  who  so 
obviously  expected  other  visitors,  must  have  been  painful  in  the 
extreme,  but  Dr.  Gentian  bore  it  with  admirable  equanimity.  He 
put  his  hand  to  his  mouth  once,  slowly,  while  his  face  altered. 
Then  he  came  forward  to  Andrew,  smiling,  with  hand  out- 
stretched, as  if  the  pistol  presented  at  his  heart  had  no  more 
importance  than  a  sprig  of  rosemary. 

"Ah,  Andrew,"  he  said  cheerfully,  "I  had  hardly  hoped  to  see 
you  before  the  morning.  Come  over  by  the  fire,  lad,  and  warm 
yourself— the  house  is  chilly  with  the  rain." 

"Keep  your  distance,"  said  Andrew  hoarsely,  "keep  your  dis- 
tance, you  miracle  of  hell,  or  I'll  shoot  your  heart  out." 

Dr.  Gentian's  hand  dropped  to  his  side.  He  looked  puzzled  and 

"Why  lad,"  he  said  gently,  "are  you  still  so  fevered?"  He 
smiled  sympathetically,  "Or  did  my  playacting  just  now  fright- 
how  much  did  you  hear  of  it?"  he  said  in  a  swift  breath. 

"Enough,"  said  Andrew  wretchedly.  "Keep  your  distance,  Dr. 
Gentian— I  have  no  wish  to  murder  you,  but  I  leave  your  house 

"I  forbid  it,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  promptly,  "as  your  physician, 
if  not  as  Sparta's  father."  Fie  came  a  little  nearer.  "Let  me  look 
at  your  eyes,  lad— yes,  they're  bright."  He  shook  his  head.  "Far 
too  bright— and  your  pulse  is  beating  like  a  hammer  I'll  warrant, 
and  your  skin— oh,  I  know  the  signs!  It  would  be  madness  for 
you  to  ride  in  this  rain—"  with  each  phrase  he  approached  a  trifle, 
delicately,  on  slippered  feet. 

"Let  me  feel  your  pulse  a  moment,  lad,"  he  said  now,  stretch- 
ing out  his  hand  again.  Andrew  beat  it  down  with  a  gesture. 

"Stop,"  he  said,  "I  know  you.  The  lot  of  you.  You've  plucked 
me  like  a  pigeon  between  you— you  and  your  whory  daughter 
and  your  wife  that  hangs  up  servant  girls  by  the  thumbs.  You 
torturers.  Come  out,  Caterina,"  he  said,  without  turning  his  head. 

The  door  in  the  wall  opened,  the  Minorcan  girl  stepped  into 
the  room.  Dr.  Gentian  gazed  at  her  for  a  moment.  A  tiny  drop  of 
blood  gathered  on  one  of  her  wrists  and  fell.  Andrew,  looking 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

at  the  Doctor,  thought  he  seemed  more  like  a  Caesar  than  ever, 
with  the  color  out  of  his  cheeks,  but  this  time  he  knew  the  face. 
It  was  no  Julian  or  Augustan  coin—it  came  of  a  later  mintage— 
the  silver  was  debased— the  lids  of  the  eyes  grown  heavy.  Caligula 
at  the  Games  staring  down  at  a  bloody  sand,  where  something 
moved  and  cried— Tiberius  killing  flies  like  so  many  black  slaves 
at  the  window  of  his  villa  above  the  cold,  star-amethyst  of  the 
sea  ... 

The  Minorcan  girl  shut  the  door  slowly  behind  her.  She  held 
out  her  bloody  wrists.  She  did  not  speak. 

"So,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  sucking  his  breath  in.  Then,  without 
warning,  he  sprang  for  the  side  of  the  fireplace  and  pulled  at  the 
bell-cord  furiously.  The  hammer  of  Andrew's  pistol  fell.  The 
fire  sparked  in  the  flint  but  that  was  all.  He  remembered  looking 
at  the  pistol,  years  ago,  and  thinking  it  should  be  reprimed. 

"Oh,  Christ,"  said  Andrew,  with  a  sob,  and  leaped  forward, 
throwing  the  pistol  aside.  He  heard  the  Minorcan  girl  cry  out. 
Then  a  flare  like  the  sudden  flare  and  extinction  of  a  puff  of  red 
fire  lit  the  base  of  his  brain  for  a  moment  and  was  succeeded  by 
sparkling  darkness. 

When  he  roused,  his  head  felt  huge,  and  as  if  it  would  split 
apart  like  a  cut  orange  at  the  slightest  movement.  He  was  propped 
in  a  corner  with  his  hands  bound  behind  his  back  and  Mr.  Cave 
was  standing  over  him  with  a  gorged,  pleased  look  on  his  face. 

"He  has  a  skull,"  said  Mr.  Cave,  turning  away  from  him  to  the 
Doctor,  who  seemed  engaged  in  washing  his  hands  in  a  little 
basin,  "I  couldn't  use  my  right  hand,  even  so— by  God,  all  the 
time  you  were  bandaging  him,  I  thought  you  were  wasting  lint." 
Andrew  noticed  now  that  Mr.  Cave  carried  his  right  arm  in  a 
sling.  Dully,  he  wondered  why. 

"You  were  admirably  prompt,  Mr.  Cave,"  said  the  Doctor, 
aloofly,  drying  his  hands,  "I  must  thank  you.  I  confess,  I  have 
seldom  known  you  so  prompt  before." 

Mr.  Cave's  face  grew  sullen.  "We  were  looking  for  the  Minor- 
can  piece,"  he  said,  "I  thought  she  might  have  come  down  your 
stair.  I  heard  you  pull  at  the  bell  as  I  got  to  the  door." 

"A  fortunate  coincidence,"  said  Dr.  Gentian  reflectively.  "And 
yet— in  future,  Mr.  Cave— unless  by  my  invitation—" 

"I  wouldn't  have  used  your  damn  staircase  tonight,"  said  Mr. 
Cave,  flushing,  "but  I  thought— as  long  as  she'd  broken  away—" 


Spanish  Bayonet 

"Quite  right,"  purred  the  merry  Doctor.  "You  are  always 
right,  Mr.  Cave." 

"What  have  you  done  with  her?"  said  Andrew,  thickly.  His 
senses  were  returning,  he  felt  on  the  point  of  vomiting  from  the 
warm,  hike,  jellyish  taste  of  blood  in  his  mouth. 

The  Doctor  eyed  him  with  his  head  cocked  on  one  side,  like 
a  bird. 

"Do  not  vex  your  mind  unduly,  Andrew,"  he  said.  "Your 
trollop  has  gone  back  to  her  room.  She  will  doubtless  undergo  a 
little  discipline  in  the  morning,  but  that  is  all.  I  shall  not  even  put 
her  back  in  the  fields." 

"May  God  damn  your  soul  in  hell,"  said  Andrew,  retching. 
"If  I  could  only  get  loose—" 

"You  would  merely  do  yourself  an  injury,"  said  Dr.  Gentian 
briskly.  He  turned.  "You  sent  for  the  soldiers,  Mr.  Cave?" 

"Yes,  str,"  Mr.  Cave  grinned.  "They'll  have  work  to  do  for 

"Ah,  yes,"  said  the  Doctor.  "By  the  way—"  He  picked  up  an 
object  from  the  table,  daintily  and  came  over  to  Andrew,  holding 
it  at  fingers'  length.  "Do  you  recognize  this,  my  boy?" 

Andrew  stared  at  the  object.  It  was  the  knife  he  had  given 
Sebastian,  but  now  there  were  rusty  stains  along  the  blade. 

"Yes.  It's  my  knife,"  he  said.  He  was  about  to  add  that  it  had 
not  been  his  for  three  months,  but  did  not  because  each  word 
he  uttered  was  a  stab  in  his  head. 

"Thank  you,"  said  the  Doctor,  "that  is  very  satisfactory.  You 
see,  Andrew,  your  Minorcan  friend,  Zafortezas,  happened  to  stab 
poor  Mr.  Cave  in  the  arm  with  that  knife  a  few  hours  ago.  A 
flesh-wound  only,  fortunately.  Your  knife.  Curious.  And  the  same 
evening,  you,  for  some  inexplicable  reason,  attempt  to  murder  me 
with  a  pistol.  It  begins  to  look  like  a  plot,  Andrew—it  begins  to 
look  like  a  plot"— and  he  shook  his  head  sorrowfully,  while  his 
eyes  danced  with  little  points  of  light. 

"You—"  said  Andrew,  raging  impotently. 

"Yes,  Andrew.  A  plot  to  take  my  plantation  from  me.  Ah, 
Andrew,  Andrew,  I  wouldn't  have  believed  it  of  you,"  he  said. 

Andrew  was  silent,  feeling  unmanly  tears  of  weak  fury  prick 
at  his  eyes.  Then  he  thought  of  something. 

"I  appeal  to  the  governor,"  he  said. 

"Inadvisable,"  said  Dr.  Gentian.  "The  governor  may  not  be 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

my  friend— but  I  doubt  if  he  would  give  much  weight  to  any 
appeal  from  a  Northern  rebel." 

"Rebel?"  said  Andrew,  dizzily. 

"Rebel.  Oh,  I  forgot— you  have  not  had  your  mail.  Well,  you 
may  take  it  to  jail  with  you,  and  read  it  there.  Yes,  Andrew— the 
Northern  Colonies  are  in  revolt.  There's  been  blood  spilt—"  He 
tossed  a  packet  of  letters  into  Andrew's  lap.  "Most  interesting 
—especially  the  one  from  your  brother.  He  seems  to  be  deeply 
involved  in  the  rebellion.  Your  father  is  greatly  concerned." 

Andrew  was  struck  dumb.  So  it  had  come  at  last.  He  saw  his 
brother  Lucius  firing  at  a  man  in  a  red  coat— his  father  sitting  at 
his  desk  in  the  home  on  Wall  Street  with  a  newspaper  crumpled 
before  him  and  his  eyes  looking  into  a  darkness— and  felt,  for  a 
bitter  moment,  that  he  himself  was  the  most  futile  person  alive. 

"When  did  it  happen?"  he  said. 

"In  April,"  Dr.  Gentian  smiled,  "at  a  place  called  Lexington 
—and  Concord— near  Boston,  aren't  they?  They  say  the  colonials 
ran  like  hares." 

"You  lie,"  said  Andrew,  with  an  intensity  that  surprised  him. 
"They  wouldn't  run  before  a  parcel  of  lobsterbacks." 

"No?"  said  Dr.  Gentian.  He  smiled  again.  "You  will  note,  Mr. 
Cave,  that  our  friend  has  just  insulted  the  entire  British  army 

172  tOtO." 

"I'll  note  it,"  said  Mr.  Cave,  greedily,  "I'll  remember  it." 

A  knock  came  at  the  door. 

"There,  sir,"  said  Mr.  Cave,  "there  are  our  lobsterbacks  now." 

He  opened  the  door.  Three  soldiers  headed  by  a  corporal 
marched  into  the  room  and  grounded  arms.  Andrew  thought 
tiredly  that  they  looked  like  disgruntled  footmen  in  their  drag- 
gled uniforms.  The  corporal's  face  was  still  puffy  with  sleep.  By 
some  trick  of  mind  he  remembered  his  first  tour  of  inspection 
when  they  had  passed  the  tiny  guardhouse  near  the  wharves  and 
Dr.  Gentian  had  jested  about  his  military  forces.  There  were  only 
eight  men  at  the  post— where  were  the  other  five?  It  seemed  in- 
appropriate that  they  should  not  join  in  this  nightmare  joke  of 
arresting  him  as  a  murderer  and  a  rebel. 

The  corporal  was  a  decent  fellow— he  had  often  given  him 
tobacco.  But  tonight  his  face  was  as  stiff  and  wooden  as  a  face 
carved  on  the  bowl  of  a  pipe.  It  betrayed  not  the  slightest  sign 
that  he  had  ever  seen  Andrew  before.  All  soldiers  were  like  that— 


Spanish  Bayonet 

they  came  out  of  a  giant  toy-box  and  turned  into  flat  pieces  of 
painted  wood  whenever  someone  spoke  to  them  with  a  frog  in 
his  throat.  He  looked  at  the  corporal's  feet  accusingly— they 
should  be  glued  into  a  little  green  stand.  Also,  it  was  thoughtless 
of  Dr.  Gentian  to  leave  his  soldiers  out  in  the  rain.  They  would 
have  to  be  repainted,  tomorrow,  clumsily,  with  sticky  stuff  that 
came  off  on  your  tongue  when  you  licked  the  brush.  Presently 
he  would  get  up  and  push  the  corporal  in  the  chest— then  the 
corporal  would  totter  on  his  stand  and  fall  in  one  piece  against 
the  nearest  private,  and  all  three  of  them  would  clatter  to  the 
floor  with  a  woodeny  sound,  because  they  were  only  toys,  and 
this  was  a  dream.  Dr.  Gentian  was  saying  something. 

"Put  him  in  the  cell  with  the  Minorcan,"  he  was  saying.  "They 
are  both  concerned  in  the  attempt  to  assassinate  Mr.  Cave  and 
myself  and  capture  the  colony.  In  addition,  this  young  man  is 
strongly  suspected  of  being  in  league  with  the  rebellion  in  the 
Northern  Colonies.  Seditious  newspapers  have  been  found  in  his 
room  and  his  brother  is  a  prime-mover  in  the  revolt.  He  will  be 
transferred  to  St.  Augustine  later,  for  trial.  The  charge  is  treason 
and  attempted  murder.  Very  well,  corporal.  Take  charge  of  the 

"Get  him  up  on  his  feet,"  said  the  corporal  in  a  voice  of 
board.  "Can  he  walk?  All  right— bring  him  along  between  you.'* 

They  passed  by  the  great  main  staircase  on  their  way  to  the 
door,  and  Andrew,  turning  his  head  caught  a  glimpse  of  Sparta 
Gentian.  She  was  standing  half  up  the  stairway,  leaning  on  the 
rail,  the  shawl  with  the  vivid  flowers  on  it  wrapped  around  her. 
Their  eyes  met  for  an  instant.  As  she  looked  at  him  a  slow  smile 
widened  on  her  mouth  and  her  eyes  began  to  burn.  Then  she 
leaned  forward  deliberately  and  spat  at  him  from  the  stair. 

"Damn  the  woman— she's  spit  on  my  coat,"  grumbled  the 
private  on  Andrew's  right  as  they  went  out  of  the  door. 

"Less  talk  there,  you,"  said  the  corporal  ahead.  "Shut  your 
mouth  and  pretend  you're  a  duck— it's  raining  like  bloody  hell." 


There  was  darkness  and  the  smell  of  damp  stone  and  rotten 
mold— things  ran  about  in  the  darkness  on  light,  innumerable  feet. 
The  air  was  the  air  of  a  cellar  that  has  been  built  underneath  a 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

well.  For  a  moment  Andrew  was  oddly  reminded  of  the  dairy- 
house  on  the  country  place  that  bordered  the  Boston  road— cool 
even  in  lion-colored  August  with  the  coolness  of  slabs  of  stone 
buried  deep  in  the  ground.  He  was  a  tanned  little  boy  in  knee- 
breeches  with  flushed  cheeks  and  damp  hair,  standing  before  a 
gleaming  pan  on  a  table  and  stretching  out  a  stealthy  finger 
through  the  pleasant  gloom  to  dabble  its  tip  in  the  risen  cream, 
thick  and  yellow  as  daffodil-petals  clotted  together.  Through  the 
deep,  barred  window  Summer  came  and  the  smell  of  it,  the 
smell  of  heat  and  harvest  and  grain  bursting  out  of  the  ear.  Then 
he  remembered.  The  little  boy  and  the  cool  dairy  belonged  to 
another  life  which  some  stranger  had  lived  in  a  void.  This  was 
the  pit  of  oppression  and  he  would  lie  in  it  like  a  truss  of  dis- 
carded hay  till  they  took  him  out  to  hang  him  to  an  orange-tree 
in  the  bright  morning,  while  Spanish  ladies  looked  out  from  be- 
hind black  fans  from  the  jutting  balconies  of  old  houses  in  St. 
Augustine,  and  a  curly-haired  drummer-boy  rattled  out  a  dead 
march  and  then,  for  an  instant,  silenced  his  drum. 

He  moved  forward  unsteadily,  in  the  darkness.  "Sebastian?"  he 
called  querulously,  "Sebastian? " 

There  was  a  stir  in  a  corner. 

"I  am  here,  my  friend,"  said  a  disembodied  voice. 

"Have  they  hurt  you  much,  Sebastian?" 

"The  knife  slipped,"  said  the  voice  in  answer.  "He  was  too 
quick.  The  knife  slipped  in  my  hand."  Then  it  was  silent  and 
tne  running  things  resumed  their  activities. 

Andrew  felt  his  way  over  to  the  corner.  His  outstretched  hand 
touched  a  shoulder  that  winced  beneath  the  touch. 

"Have  they  hurt  you  much?"  he  said  again. 

"No,"  said  Sebastian  very  bitterly.  Andrew's  eyes  were  grow- 
ing accustomed  to  the  blackness— now  he  saw  the  blur  of  a  face. 
"I  am  well  enough.  But  the  knife  was  dedicated— it  should  not 
have  slipped  when  I  struck." 

"I  fired  at  him  point-blank,"  said  Andrew  sitting  down  in  a 
puddle.  "But  the  priming  was  wet.  Then  they  hit  me  over  the 

"You  should  have  had  a  silver  bullet,"  said  Sebastian.  "People 
like  that  are  not  killed  with  steel  or  lead." 

"I  will  have  a  silver  bullet  next  time,"  said  Andrew,  and  fell 
silent.  The  two  friends  sat  together  in  the  dark  for  some  time 


Spanish  Bayonet 

without  saying  anything  more.  Both  were  gazing  into  the  shadow 
that  encompassed  them  and  Andrew's  hand  lay  lightly  on  Sebas- 
tian's shoulder.  There  seemed  little  need  of  speech  between  them 
at  the  moment—each  knew  well  enough  what  the  other  felt  and 
thought.  When  Andrew  had  first  entered  this  mildewed  night,  he 
had  been  curious  to  hear  Sebastian's  story  and  eager  to  tell  his 
own.  Now  he  felt  as  if  both  had  been  told  and  judged  and  found 
unimportant.  There  were  only  three  things  left  of  any  impor- 
tance, an  ache  in  the  skull,  a  darkness  before  the  eyes,  and  the 
quick  sound  of  scuttling  feet  in  the  other  corners  of  the  room. 

After  a  while,  however,  Andrew  spoke. 

"Do  you  think  there'll  be  a  next  time,  Sebastian?"  he  said, 

"Who  knows?"  said  Sebastian.  "We  are  always  between  God's 
fingers— now  no  less  than  ever." 

At  any  other  time  the  words  would  have  struck  Andrew  as 
insufferably  bigoted  and  submissive.  Now  they  seemed  to  him 
what  they  were,  a  calm  statement  of  fact.  To  Sebastian  God  was 
a  visible  and  tangible  presence— therefore  He  was  here,  in  this  pit, 
no  more  so  and  no  less  than  He  was  everywhere.  He  was  with  the 
soldiers  in  the  guardroom,  also,  as  they  drank  out  of  empty  cups 
and  cut  at  toy  food  that  stuck  to  its  plate.  He  was  with  Dr.  Gen- 
tian in  his  study  when  devils  hatched  in  the  fire.  No  sin  could 
avert  that  scrutiny,  no  blasphemy  or  righteousness  deter  its  pene- 
tration by  the  width  of  a  hair.  When  the  time  came  for  judgment, 
they  should  all  be  judged— meanwhile  it  behooved  them  to  act 
according  to  their  lights,  for,  within  their  limits  of  flesh,  they 
were  free  to  do  good  or  evil.  God  had  bound  them  all  with  a 
light,  indivisible  cord— when  He  wished,  He  could  gather  them 
up  and  count  them  like  the  buttons  on  Peggy's  button  string. 
In  the  meantime,  He  might  never  lift  a  finger  to  avert  a  present 
anguish— for  so  are  martyrs  left  without  justification. 

Andrew  wished  that  he  could  think  of  God  like  that,  but  he 
could  not.  To  him  God  was  something  vague  to  pray  to,  for 
happiness  or  against  the  approach  of  pain— something  which 
might  be  there.  God  was  a  cushioned  pew  and  a  prayer-book  and 
a  clergyman  in  robes  as  opposed  to  a  hard  pew  and  a  long  hymn 
and  a  preacher  in  a  black  Geneva  gown.  He  had  never  thought 
much  about  God  except  as  a  superior  kind  of  Archbishop  of 
Canterbury  who  sat  on  a  cloud  and  looked  at  Papists  sternly.  But 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Sebastian  was  a  Papist—and  Sebastian  had  taken  God  in  his  mouth 
—and  God  was  with  him  now.  It  was  very  strange  and  just  a  little 

"They  say  I'm  a  traitor,"  he  said  idly.  "They  say  the  Northern 
colonies  have  revolted  and  there  was  a  fight  between  our  men  and 
the  soldiers— and  my  brother  was  in  it,  so  I  must  be  a  traitor,  too." 

"When  the  ass  is  spurred  too  hard  it  tries  to  kick  off  its  rider," 
said  Sebastian,  who  had  proverbs  in  his  blood.  "Are  you  for 
the  rider  or  the  ass?" 

"I  don't  know,"  said  Andrew,  puzzled.  "My  house  is  divided. 
I  should  have  thought  more  about  it  before.  I  know  my  father 
must  be  for  the  King." 

"Then  you  must  be  for  the  King,"  said  Sebastian,  with  Latin 
respect  for  paternal  authority.  "It  is  ugly  when  a  cause  divides 
son  and  father— even  a  good  cause." 

"I  don't  know,"  said  Andrew  again.  "It  doesn't  seem  real  yet." 
Again  he  saw  the  dim  picture  of  his  brother  aiming  a  musket  at 
a  toy-soldier  corporal— the  picture  was  fantastic— it  could  not 
have  occurred.  "I  can't  believe  they're  really  fighting,"  he  added, 
"I  can't.  The  ministry  has  passed  some  bad  laws,  of  course— but 
Hancock  and  Adams— who'd  ever  fight  for  them?" 

"Once  men  have  started  to  fight,  they  forget  what  set  them 
on,"  Sebastian  said.  "It  is  like  a  game  of  ball— the  ball  is  nothing 
—the  thing  is  to  throw  the  ball  so  it  counts  for  your  side.  Those 
who  watch  the  game  see  better  than  the  players.  Only,  in  war, 
you  cannot  stand  off  and  watch  the  game." 

"I  don't  want  to  fight  the  King's  soldiers,  though,"  said 
Andrew.  "Why  should  I?  And  I  certainly  can't  imagine  fighting 

"You  will  have  to  do  one  or  the  other,"  said  Sebastian,  placidly. 
"But  the  winning  side  is  always  hard  to  tell." 

"Not  this  time,"  said  Andrew,  feeling  his  tongue  grow  curi- 
ously bitter.  "If  there  really  is  a  revolt,  they'll  put  it  down  as  they 
put  down  the  Pretender  at  Culloden.  Butcher  Cumberland.  They 
have  a  trained  army.  We  have  nothing.  I  mean  the  Colonials  have 
nothing,"  he  added  hastily. 

"God  sometimes  gets  tired  of  the  man  on  the  ass,"  said  Sebas- 
tian. "If  I  didn't  think  that,  I  would  strangle  myself  here  with  my 
own  hands." 


Spanish  Bayonet 

"Perhaps,"  said  Andrew,  considering.  "But  if  I  were  betting,  I 
should  bet  on  the  man." 

"You  have  already  bet  on  the  ass,  my  friend,"  said  Sebastian, 
with  a  chuckle.  "If  you  had  not,  you  would  not  be  here." 

His  shoulder  was  withdrawn  from  beneath  Andrew's  hand.  He 
turned  over  on  his  side.  "I  have  some  letters  from  home,"  mut- 
tered Andrew,  "I  can  tell  better  when  I  read  them— is  there  ever 
any  light  in  this  place,  Sebastian?" 

"A  little,  in  the  morning.  I  remember  when  we  first  made  this 
cellar,  I  wondered  why  it  was  dug  so  deep."  He  was  silent. 
Andrew  heard  him  begin  to  breathe  deeply  and  quietly. 

"What's  the  matter,  Sebastian— are  you  going  to  sleep?" 

"Why  not?"  said  a  drowsy  voice,  "I  may  dream  my  knife 
did  not  slip  after  all." 

"I  wonder  if  my  head  will  come  off,  if  I  try  to  sleep,"  said 
Andrew  to  himself.  "I  suppose  it  won't,  though  it  feels  like  it." 
He  stretched  himself  out  on  the  straw  and  shut  his  eyes.  "But 
listen,  Sebastian,"  he  said,  after  a  long  pause,  "do  you  really  be- 
lieve God  is  here  in  prison  with  us,  in  this  room?"  He  waited,  but 
there  was  no  answer.  Then  he  sighed  and  arranged  himself  a  little 
more  comfortably,  hoping  the  things  that  ran  would  not  scamper 
over  him  much,  once  he  was  quiet.  In  the  morning,  they  could 
plan,  perhaps— not  now— the  thick  stupor  of  fatigue  rocked  him 
in  a  cradle  of  lead.  It  seemed  odd  that  the  dawn  which  would 
wash  the  tiny  window  above  him  with  pale  waters  of  light  to- 
morrow was  the  very  same  colored  dawn  that  should  have  found 
him  dozing  in  Sparta  Gentian's  bed,  with  her  hair  spread  over 
their  pillow  like  a  scarf  of  drawn  gold. 


As  Sebastian  had  said,  light  came  to  their  habitation  in  the 
morning— a  slanting,  shallow  column,  but  enough  to  enable 
Andrew  to  read  his  letters.  Also  they  had  been  given  fresh  water 
and  a  dish  of  boiled  rice.  The  corporal  had  brought  them  these, 
but  had  refused  to  answer  any  questions.  Andrew  had  asked  for  a 
razor,  which  was,  of  course,  denied. 

"I  never  saw  them  hang  a  fellow  with  a  beard,"  the  corporal 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

remarked  judicially  after  the  request.  "But  then  I  haven't  seen 
much  hanging."  His  mouth  was  sad.  "When  they  hung  the  great 
pirates  at  Execution  Dock  I  was  as  near  to  it  as  could  be,  but 
somebody  had  to  stay  with  Gramfer.  Crippled  all  up  he  was,  and 
twice  he'd  fallen  in  the  fire  with  nobody  by.  Well,  I  was  the 
youngest  and  the  least  account,  so  I  didn't  see  it.  They  say  Kidd 
made  a  fine  show.  My  father  saw  him,"  he  added,  with  some 
pride.  "Twirled  he  did  and  kicked  for  a  while.  Well,  'tis  all  in 
the  drop,  they  say— a  proper  drop  and  'tis  over  as  soon  as  bite 
your  nails,"  he  concluded  cheerfully  and  disappeared. 

Andrew  could  not  hate  the  man  for  his  graveyard  remarks— 
his  face  was  as  honest  and  foolish  as  the  face  of  a  giant  pumpkin. 
But  he  felt  his  neck  tenderly  for  a  moment  after  the  fellow  had 

Now  Sebastian  was  finishing  the  boiled  rice,  and  he  was  read- 
ing the  last  of  his  letters.  From  them  he  got  anxiety  and  excite- 
ment but  little  solace.  Lexington— Concord— he  tried  to  remember 
Lexington— he  had  passed  through  it  once  on  a  memorable  trip 
to  Boston  with  his  father  and  Lucius.  He  remembered  the  leathery 
smell  of  the  coach  and  how  his  father  had  gone  to  sleep  with  a 
red  silk  handkerchief  over  his  face  distinctly  enough,  but  Lex- 
ington itself  eluded  him.  A  blur  of  trees— a  village  green  where 
a  goose  waddled  and  stretched  out  its  neck  to  hiss  as  a  pinafored 
little  girl— a  white  church  with  a  steeple— the  open  door  of 
a  blacksmith  shop  where  a  man  in  a  leather  apron  spat  upon  a 
fiery  horseshoe— these  scraps  were  all  he  could  dredge  up  from 
the  ragbag  of  memory.  He  stitched  them  into  a  town,  in  no  way 
different  from  a  dozen  other  little  Massachusetts  towns  through 
which  their  coach  had  rolled,  and  yet  now,  somehow,  very 
different.  A  month  ago,  when  morning  was  only  half-awake  and 
the  shadows  lay  the  wrong  way,  men  had  died  on  that  dim  grass, 
awkwardly,  unexpectedly— the  brimstone  smell  of  burnt  powder 
had  drifted  in  through  the  windows  of  the  white  church  and 
the  open  door  of  the  smithy— where  the  goose  had  waddled  the 
green,  bullets  had  journeyed  as  casually,  with  much  the  same 
hissing  sound.  He  saw  a  plump  woman  with  a  queer  white  face 
stand  at  the  foot  of  a  stairway,  listening,  and  his  brother,  the 
macaroni  with  two  watches,  dandy  no  longer  but  dirty  and 
smooched,  with  a  cut  on  his  cheek,  hiding  behind  a  wall  to  fire 


Spanish  Bayonet 

at  broken  red  dots  running  over  a  bridge.  And  still  he  could  not 

"Disperse  ye  Rebels  says  He  but  we  were  Not  for  Dispersing 
.  .  .  So,  as  I  say,  We  Chast  them  till  they  met  with  their  Other 
Force  .  .  .  Lord  Percy's  it  is  Said  ...  I  have  a  Fine  Blister  on  Both 
my  Feet  because  of  it  and  a  better  prospect  of  Hanging  than 
Ever  I  had  but  oh  Andrew  you  should  have  Seen  the  S\vcet  Way 
they  Ran  ..." 

That  was  Lucius'  letter.  So  no  more  at  Present  from  Yr.  Bro. 
It  was  odd  to  think  of  Lucius,  the  correct,  the  mannered,  help- 
ing Massachusetts  bumpkins  to  hunt  a  lord  like  a  fox. 

One  thine*,  however,  stood  out  plainly.  His  father  was  a  broken 
man.  Suspected  by  both  sides,  the  invisible  swordsman  had  forced 
him  to  the  wall  at  last.  The  handwriting  in  his  last  epistle  was 
shaky  arid  old— the  ends  of  the  letters  trailed  off  feebly  as  if  it 
had  been  too  great  a  care  to  finish  them  aright.  "I  have  had  a 
Stroke,  my  dear  Sonn,  and  though  they  say  'Twas  not  the  True 
Apoplexy,  yr.  Mother  is  greatly  Concerned."  Andrew  felt  pain 
tear  at  his  heart,  ragged  and  sharp.  Pain  and  satire,  for  the  words 
were  followed  by  a  formal  blessing  "Upon  your  Projected  Mar- 
riage." For  an  instant  Andrew  wished,  humanly  enough,  that 
he  had  never  found  Sparta  out.  His  father  seemed  to  set  such 
store  by  the  fact  that  his  younger  son,  at  least,  was  safe  from 
the  worries  that  beset  himself.  The  mood  was  succeeded  by  one 
quite  as  youthful  though  more  practical.  He  started  up.  He  must 
get  back  to  New  York  at  once— see  his  father— find  out  the  truth 
of  the  quarrel  between  colonies  and  King.  His  head  was  better 
now  and  his  fever,  queerly  enough,  quite  gone.  He  \vas  almost 
at  the  door  before  he  remembered.  Then  he  put  his  head  in  his 
hands  and  groaned  aloud. 

He  felt  Sebastian  touch  him  on  the  arm.  "Come  my  friend," 
said  a  voice,  "sorrow  eases  the  .heart,  but  we  have  no  time  for  it 
now.  There  must  be  a  way  out  of  this  hole— the  rats  come  in  and 
go  out,  and  between  us  we  have  at  least  as  much  sagacity  as  a 

It  was  later.  The  slanting  column  of  light  through  the  window 
had  almost  disappeared.  They  had  searched  the  boundaries  of 
their  prison,  floors  and  walls,  as  far  as  their  hands  could  reach, 
like  misers  looking  for  a  penny,  and  still  they  had  found  nothing 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

to  aid  their  escape.  Two  crannies  through  which  rats  could  pass, 
a  litter  of  soiled  straw  tossed  over  and  over— that  was  all.  Andrew 
thought  of  the  tools  hanging  from  the  bench  of  the  carpenter's 
shop  by  the  wharf  with  a  hopeless  longing.  He  would  have  given 
any  dubious  immortality  for  the  little  file  down  by  the  end. 

"We  must  think  of  some  way  to  get  the  soldier  in  here  and 
knock  him  on  the  head,"  said  Sebastian,  rising  from  his  knees 
after  a  last  picking  over  of  the  straw.  "We  cannot  take  the  wall 
apart  with  our  fingernails." 

"Even  if  we  did,  though  .  .  ."  said  Andrew. 

"Yes,"  said  Sebastian,  "there's  only  one  way  out  and  that's 
through  the  guardroom.  But  it  is  our  only  chance." 

"Wait  a  minute,"  said  Andrew.  He  took  up  the  dish  and  the 
pitcher  that  had  held  their  breakfast  and  stared  at  them 'with 
greedy  searching  eyes. 

"I  thought  of  that,"  said  Sebastian.  He  tapped  the  dish, 
"Wood,"  the  pitcher,  "Clay."  "Even  if  we  broke  the  pitcher,  the 
pieces  would  crumble  on  the  stone." 

"There  must  be  something,  somewhere,"  said  Andrew,  against 
reason.  Again  his  eyes  slowly  traversed  the  familiar  walls  of  the 
room  from  ceiling  to  floor.  Then  he  stiffened  all  over  like  a  dog 
coming  to  point.  High  up  in  the  wall  and  hardly  visible  in  the 
gloom,  beyond  the  reach  of  their  hands,  was  a  large,  projecting 

"Get  up  on  my  shoulders,  Sebastian— there  is  our  tool,"  he  said, 
his  voice  shaken  as  if  he  had  just  risen  from  deep  water  with  a 
sea-pearl  in  his  hand. 

It  took  an  hour  or  so  to  work  the  nail  loose  'from  the  wall. 
When  they  had  it  down  at  last,  it  proved  bent  and  rusty  but  they 
gloated  over  it  with  a  solemn  joy. 

"Now,"  said  Sebastian,  practically,  "where?"  and  he  looked 
around  him. 

"We  could  never  tunnel  through  from  below  in  time,"  said 
Andrew.  "That  stone  beneath  the  window— can  you  reach  it, 
if  you  stand  on  my  shoulders  again?" 

"I  can  just  reach  up  to  the  middle  of  the  bar,"  said  Sebastian, 
after  he  had  tried. 

"Sentry  outside?" 

Sebastian  peered  cautiously,  "I  don't  see  one.  But  there  may 
£e  one.  There's  a  ditch,  and  a  little  rise  beyond  it." 


Spanish  Bayonet 

"Thank  God  the  light's  gone  away.  He'd  hardly  see  us,  any- 
how, in  the  darkness— and  we'll  just  have  to  chance  being  heard. 
Is  the  window  too  small?" 

"Yes.  Even  if  we  could  cut  the  bar." 

"Well  then,"  said  Andrew,  gritting  his  teeth  and  wishing 
Sebastian  weighed  less.  "We'll  have  to  take  out  the  stone." 

They  spelled  each  other,  all  afternoon,  at  short  intervals,  the 
one  who  was' below  listening  for  the  footsteps  of  the  guard.  The 
nail  grew  dull— then  sharp  again  as  it  filed  itself  against  the  stone 
—then  dull  once  more.  Once  it  almost  broke  in  two  and  once 
they  were  nearly  caught  by  the  unexpected  return  of  the  cor- 
poral soon  after  he  had  brought  them  a  scant  and  nasty  dinner. 
It  was  hard,  exhausting  work— the  mortar  at  which  they  picked 
was  only  a  little  less  indurate  than  the  stones  it  cemented  and 
the  man  who  worked  had  to  support  himself  with  one  hand 
against  the  wall  while  his  human  stepladder  suffered  rigid  agonies 
in  back  and  loins.  When  they  were  too  beaten  with  fatigue  to 
work  any  more  it  seemed  to  them  as  if  they  had  accomplished 
as  little  as  a  pair  of  caterpillars  gnawing  blindly  at  the  sides  of 
an  iron  box,  but  at  least  a  beginning  had  been  made.  They  dis- 
guised their  work  with  a  paste  of  mud  and  spittle  and  rested 

The  next  day  was  the  same,  and  the  next—a  fever  of  labor  in 
the  dark  to  the  accompaniment  of  the  slight  rasp  of  the  worn 
nail  against  the  stone— a  driving  of  cramped,  rebellious  muscles 
to  the  same  monotonous,  tiny  task.  Pick,  pick,  pick,  went  the 
sound  of  the  nail— pick,  pick,  pick.  The  sound  wore  a  shallow 
groove  in  Andrew's  mind.  He  could  hear  it  continue  interminably 
through  the  uneasy  veil  of  sleep  and  his  fingers  twitched  me- 
chanically as  if  they  still  held  the  nail. 

Pride  and  hope  alike  were  gone,  the  body  was  gone,  of  the 
body  only  the  hands  remained,  picking,  picking  unendingly 
like  clumsy  thieves  at  the  lock  of  a  closed  door.  He  had  long  ago 
ceased  to  be  Andrew  Beard.  He  was  a  smoke,  a  shadow,  that 
crawled  up  upon  another  shadow's  shoulders  in  obliterated 
gloom,  to  pick,  pick,  pick  with  a  shadowy  fang  at  a  deepening 
crack  between  two  blocks  of  darkness,  Sometimes  it  was  the 
black,  dully-gleaming  heart  of  Night  itself  at  which  he  dug,  and 
he  half-expected  his  nail  at  any  moment  to  slip  through  some 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

crack  in  heaven  and  shatter  itself  to  bits  against  the  points  of  a 

Why  he  did  what  he  was  doing,  he  no  longer  remembered. 
The  thought  of  any  actual  escape  was  buried  deep  under  tiny 
crumbs  of  mortar  and  flakes  of  iron-rust.  He  felt  at  times  that  if 
some  one  had  opened  the  door  and  told  him  he  was  free,  he 
would  merely  have  stared  and  grunted  and  returned  to  the  corner 
beneath  the  window  to  bend  his  back  again  like  a  burdened  ass 
while  Sebastian  stood  upon  it  and  nibbled  at  a  coffin  of  coquina 
somewhere  above  him,  for  ages,  with  that  slight,  rasping  sound 
till  his  fingers  refused  their  office  and  it  was  time  for  Andrew 
to  crawl  up  and  nibble  in  his  turn. 

Toward  mid-evening  of  the  third  day,  the  stone  could  be 
loosened  a  little.  If  both  had  been  able  to  get  any  purchase  on 
it,  at  the  same  time,  they  might  have  been  able  to  wrench  it 
awray  from  the  bar  which  was  cemented  into  it  from  above. 
As  it  was  the  stone  would  only  give  one  useless  and  exasperating 
fraction  of  an  inch,  and  the  problem  of  the  bar  remained.  The 
bar,  too,  was  harder  to  get  at,  and  they  could  hardly  file  it  with 
what  was  left  of  the  nail. 

"Is  it  deep  sunk,  do  you  think,  Sebastian? "  said  Andrew,  lying 
dead  on  the  floor  after  a  straining  and  unsuccessful  attempt  to 
tear  the  stone  out  of  the  wall  by  main  force. 

"I  think  so,"  said  Sebastian  wearily.  "We  shall  have  to  pick  the 
mortar  out  of  its  socket  and  bend  it  up  somehow.  Then,  perhaps, 
the  stone  wrill  loosen." 

"I  wish  I  had  your  patience,"  said  Andrew.  "Myself,  I  think 
we  shall  die  before  we  pick  out  that  mortar." 

He  rose.  "Make  me  a  back,  Sebastian.  I'll  see  if  I  can  reach  it." 

He  clung  with  one  hand  to  the  sill  and  reached  the  other  up 
awkwardly  to  pick  at  the  mortar  that  held  the  bar.  His  hand  was 
unsteady  with  fatigue  and  the  stroke  went  wild.  The  nail  slipped, 
his  knuckles  rapped  on  the  stone.  His  fingers  jerked  apart  me- 
chanically at  the  pain,  the  nail  flew  out,  hopped  between  the 
bars  and  dropped  over  the  outer  edge  of  the  window  sill.  He 
heard  it  clink  on  a  stone  and  felt  sick  and  old.  He  tried  to  reach 
over  through  the  bars,  but  the  window  opening  was  deep  and 
narrow— from  liis  cramped  position  he  could  just  put  his  hand 
out  over  the  outer  edge.  There  was  a  ditch  beyond,  a  couple 


Spanish  Bayonet 

of  feet  in  depth,  where  the  nail  had  fallen.  Try  as  he  might  he 
could  not  reach  to  the  bottom  of  that  ditch. 

His  muscles  gave  way.  He  slid  down. 

"Kill  me,  Sebastian/'  he  gasped,  "I  have  lost  the  nail,"  and  fell 
in  a  heap  on  the  floor. 

"We  must  find  another  nail,"  said  Sebastian,  after  a  long  silence, 
but  even  as  he  spoke  both  knew  that  there  was  no  other  nail. 

"Perhaps,  if  we  rest  for  a  while,  we  will  be  able  to  move  the 
stone  without  it,"  said  Andrew,  but  his  voice  was  entirely  with- 
out hope.  The  stone  had  come  to  have  a  personality  to  them 
both  in  the  hours  they  had  labored  upon  it.  At  times  they  cursed 
it  in  hushed  voices  as  one  curses  an  ungrateful  woman— at  other 
times  they  pled  with  it  for  a  sulky  god.  Now  it  had  turned  into 
a  god  forever,  a  dumb  god  with  a  broad,  flat,  roughened,  eyeless 
face,  that  sat  across  the  door  of  life  like  a  plummet  of  lead,  and 
blocked  it,  and  would  not  move  away. 

"We  will  have  to  kill  the  guard  after  all,"  said  Sebastian,  tone- 
lessly.  "Kill  him  somehow  and  chance  the  rest."  His  voice  showed 
the  utter  desperation  of  the  expedient. 

"Stone  walls  do  no-ot  a  pri-son  make.  Nor  i-ron  BARS  a 
c-a-g-e-"  giggled  Andrew  suddenly.  "That's  funny,  isn't  it, 
Sebastian?  I  remember  my  mother  used  to  sing  that— she  had  a 
good  voice.  But  the  man  who  wrote  the  song  was  a  liar  all  the 
same.  Oh,  wasn't  he  a  liar,  Sebastian—"  he  continued,  half- 

"Put  me  on  your  shoulders,  Andrew,"  said  the  other,  quietly. 
"My  arm  is  a  little  longer  than  yours— perhaps  I  can  reach  it." 

Andrew  gulped,  recovered  his  wits,  and  started  to  obey.  But 
just  as  he  bent  his  back,  something  rattled  on  the  floor. 

They  looked  at  each  other  incredulously,  holding  their  breath 
—two  hunched  images  of  shadow  staring  at  each  other  intently 
like  apes  in  a  cage.  There  was  another  tiny  rattle  on  the  floor. 
Then  Andrew  felt  a  pebble  strike  on  his  cheek. 

"Window,  Sebastian,"  he  said  fiercely,  while  hope  grew  up  in 
his  mind  like  a  winter-rose. 

It  seemed  to  him  that  he  stood  for  hours  with  Sebastian's  feet 
digging  into  his  shoulders  while  Sebastian  whispered  hurriedly 
in  Mahonese  to  another  whisper,  swift  and  gentle  as  the  rustle  of 
a  green  leaf  on  a  budded  tree.  Then  at  last  Sebastian  was  down 
and  talking  in  fierce,  little,  jerky  phrases. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Caterina,"  he  said.  "She  managed  to  get  away.  There's  a  sentry 
but  he's  a  fool.  Sleeps.  Oh,  you  English— you  think  you  can 
watch  a  rathole  with  a  lazy  cat.  Boat,  by  the  old  wharf.  To- 
morrow night.  They'll  think  we've  gone  by  land.  She'll  be  at  the 
boat.  Your  boy  helped.  Carlos.  He  says  you  gave  him  a  dollar. 
He's  very  grateful." 

"What  about  the  nail?"  said  Andrew,  still  tormented  by  its  loss. 

"We  have  better  than  nails  now,"  said  Sebastian,  luxuriously. 
He  opened  his  hand  and  showed  Andrew  a  thin  glass  bottle  full 
of  yellow  liquid.  He  shook  it  lovingly.  It  rattled.  "Files,"  he  said 
huskily.  "Two  files.  And  oil  to  quiet  them." 

Andrew  began  to  laugh  soundlessly— a  painful  laughter  that 
racked  the  pit  of  his  stomach.  Then  he  thought  of  something  else, 
and  his  laughter  stopped. 

"What  did  they  do  to  her?"  he  said,  trembling. 

"Caterina?  They  whipped  her,  that  next  morning.  That's  why 
she  couldn't  come  before.  Even  now—"  He  stretched  out  his 
arms.  The  slow  roll  of  his  voice  filled  the  chamber  like  the  beat- 
ing of  an  iron  heart.  "Oh,  Christ  on  the  Cross—"  he  prayed.  "Oh, 
Christ  on  the  Cross— You  have  given  us  a  way  to  the  air— Give  us 
vengeance  too— if  only  a  little— a  little—"  He  broke  off.  "We  must 
rest  for  a  while,"  he  said  more  naturally.  "Even  with  the  bar 
cut  through  we  will  need  all  our  strength  for  the  stone." 

The  bar  was  all  but  cut  through— the  cut  plastered  over  and 
concealed.  Then  they  had  to  wait.  They  had  rested  longer  than 
they  had  intended  before  starting  the  work,  sinking  down  into  a 
black,  murmuring  bog  of  sleep  as  soon  as  their  heads  touched  the 
floor,  and  when  the  task  was  nearly  done,  the  air  beyond  the  win- 
dow had  changed,  and,  behind  dark  gauzes,  yellow  dawn  began  to 
stir  faintly,  like  a  bird  still  hidden  in  the  egg.  After  that,  they 
could  sleep  again  for  a  while,  but  not  as  they  had  slept  before. 
They  were  too  tense,  the  bog  refused  to  receive  them,  they 
napped  in  uneasy  snatches  like  dogs  before  a  hunt.  Andrew, 
waking  a  dozen  times,  each  time  glowered  up  at  the  window  and 
was  angry  to  see  how  slowly  the  first  pale  stiletto  of  light  broad- 
ened into  a  yellow  sword. 

When  the  corporal  brought  their  breakfast  they  were  both 


Spanish  Bayonet 

broad  awake  and  vfery  restless.  They  tried  to  hold  him  in  talk 
to  make  the  minutes  pass  but  he  was  surly  and  would  only  mutter 
in  general  terms  against  sergeants  who  cheated  honest  men  out  of 
their  pay  with  dice  that  had  a  spell  on  them. 

"By  God,"  he  growled,  "if  both  of  you  weren't  such  traitors, 
Td  change  you  a  bottle  of  Augustine  rum  for  the  promise  of  a 
couple  of  knucklebones  after  you  were  hanged.  They  say  a 
hanged  man's  knucklebones  make  wizardy  dice,  if  he's  strung 
up  in  the  natural  course  of  crime— but  being  traitors,  yours 
wouldn't  serve  most  likely— 'tis  just  my  luck— I  never  played 
jailer  before  except  on  a  black  fellow  that  stole  the  Governor's 
wig  for  a  heathen  idol  in  Jamaica  and  he  was  a  poor  pagan  that 
didn't  leave  me  as  much  as  a  copper  ear-ring.  I  was  born  with  a 
caul,  too,  but  I've  never  had  any  luck  from  it.  When  I  was 
christened  parson  opened  the  book  at  the  wrong  place  and 
started  blazing  away  at  the  Burial  Service  most  savagely  before 
a'  could  be  halted  and  it's  shadowed  me  ever  since.  I  can  feel  the 
Resurrection  and  the  Life  stuck  in  my  throat  at  night  like  a  slice 
of  apple— You're  lucky  to  be  decently  hanged,  you  are,  there's 
some  more  grievous  and  judgmatical  death  in  store  for  me,  and 
it  rises  my  dinner  in  me  to  have  to  think  of  it—"  So  he  mourned 
himself  away,  leaving  them  alone  with  a  vast  desert  of  time. 

The  light  grew,  the  hours  dragged,  they  could  not  keep  their 
eyes  from  the  bar  and  the  stone.  They  would  talk  to  each  other 
feverishly  for  a  while  and  then,  without  intention,  fall  suddenly 
into  a  staring  silence.  Andrew  found  at  last  that  he  was  talking  to, 
himself  under  breath.  "Night,"  he  was  murmuring.  "Night.  Oh 
lentCj  Icnte,  currite,  nodes  equi—"  no,  that  was  the  wrong  quota- 
tion, that  asked  night's  coursers  to  slacken  their  pace. 

"What  time  do  you  suppose  it  is,  Sebastian?"  he  said  for  the 
twentieth  time. 

"We  must  have  hours  yet,"  said  Sebastian.  Andrew  had  ex- 
pected the  answer,  but  he  sighed  all  the  same.  He  looked  at 
the  bar  again.  To  the  eyes  of  both  the  crack  in  it  had  grown, 
all  through  the  morning.  Now  it  yawned— a  blunt,  metal  mouth, 
insecurely  stuffed  with  mud  and  straw.  It  seemed  impossible  that 
the  stupidest  of  jailers  should  not  detect  it  at  a  glance. 

"Sebastian,  do  you  think  if—-"  began  Andrew,  and  stopped  him- 
self. He  must  keep  his  eyes  from  the  bar— if  he  did  not  something 
would  make  him  leap  up  and  swing  from  it  chattering  like  a 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

monkey.  For  a  moment  he  half-wished  the  corporal  had  seen  the 
crack  and  suspected.  Anything  was  better  than  this  waiting. 
Then  he  made  a  sort  or  formless  prayer  to  anything  which 
might  be  listening  not  to  pay  the  slightest  attention  to  his  wish. 

There  were  footsteps  in  the  corridor—coming  nearer.  Andrew 
felt  his  body  grow  taut— glancing  over  at  Sebastian  he  saw  that 
he  too  was  rigid.  His  wish  had  been  granted.  They  were  found 
out.  They  were  coming  to  take  them  to  some  other  cell,  deep 
down,  where  even  a  file  would  be  of  no  use.  They  were  coming 
to  hang  them,  now,  while  the  light  still  held  and  the  air  was 

The  door  opened.  The  corporal  was  there  with  two  other 

"You're  wanted,''  he  said,  jerking  his  thumb  at  Andrew.  "No— 
not  you— him,"  as  Sebastian  started  to  rise. 

Andrew  got  up  slowly,  feeling  sweat  on  his  palms.  Sebastian 
and  he  were  to  be  separated— ironed  perhaps.  Either  step  would  be 
fatal  to  both,  now.  Why  hadn't  they  chanced  it  last  night? 

"Who  wants  me?"  he  said,  licking  his  mouth. 

"You're  wanted,"  said  the  corporal,  grinning.  "Come  on  now— 
shake  a  leg." 

"Adios,  amigo"  murmured  Andrew  stiffly  as  he  passed  Sebas- 
tian. They  touched  hands. 

"Come  on  now,"  said  the  corporal  impatiently,  "last  Wills 
and  Testaments  not  executed  at  this  shop  without  longer  notice." 

"Well,  Andrew,"  said  Dr.  Gentian,  pleasantly,  "I  am  sorry  to 
see  you  so  unkempt.  I  wish  I  could  lend  you  a  razor.  When  I 
was  in  prison  at  Poona,"  he  continued  reflectively,  rubbing  his 
chin,  "I  managed  to  shave  with  a  broken  cowrie-shell.  But  it  was 
a  painful  expedient,  at  best.  I  should  not  advise  its  imitation, 
though  it  passes  the  time  as  well  as  trying  to  tame  a  rat.  I  wonder 
at  the  patience  of  those  men  who  find  prison-rats  so  easy  to  tame. 
Mine  were  savage  little  beasts— Orpheus  himself  could  not  have 
made  them  affable."  He  broke  off,  tracing  a  little  pattern  with 
his  right  thumb  in  the  silver  scrollwork  on  the  butt  of  Andrew's 


Spanish  Bayonet 

The  two  were  alone— the  soldiers  had  retired  outside  the  door. 
Andrew,  through  lowered  lids  calculated  the  distance  between 
them  and  the  possibility  of  springing  across  the  table  and  getting 
that  firm  throat  between  his  hands  before  the  balanced  fore- 
finger could  pull  the  trigger. 

"I  wouldn't,"  said  the  doctor,  smiling.  "This  priming  happens 
to  be  dry  and— let  me  compliment  you  on  your  taste  in  small- 
arms,  Andrew.  You  may  not  have  observed  it,  but  this  particular 
pistol  is  a  weapon  of  delightful  precision.  I  experimented  with 
it  this  morning  upon  a  humming-bird— the  poor  thing  was  blown 
into  feathers  at  twenty  paces." 

"What  do  you  want  with  me?"  said  Andrew,  heavily.  His 
eyes  were  still  blinking  with  the  unaccustomed  plenty  of  day- 
light in  this  windowed  room.  He  had  almost  forgotten  there  were 
such  rooms,  he  realized,  now— and  realized  too,  distastefully,  the 
scarecrow  figure  he  must  cut  before  the  immaculate  Doctor.  His 
clothes  were  ragged  and  foul— dirty  stubble  covered  his  face- 
he  had  not  been  clean  for  days.  His  eyes  were  furtive— his  body 
had  a  prison  smell  to  it— when  he  walked,  he  walked  like  a 
prisoner,  with  a  heavy,  shuffling  step.  In  a  tale,  such  tiny  things 
would  not  matter  to  the  heroic  captive— it  was  monstrously  un- 
fair that  they  should  matter  now. 

"I  wanted  to  see  you,  Andrew,"  said  the  Doctor,  softly,  "and 
now  that  I  have,  I  confess  myself  satisfied." 

Andrew  hardly  heard  him— his  mind  was  busy  with  a  different 
problem.  "For  God's  sake  tell  them  to  give  me  a  clean  shirt,  you 
devil!"  he  burst  out  suddenly,  and  instantly  felt  ashamed. 

The  Doctor  laughed.  "Your  request  is  quaintly  put,"  he  said, 
with  enjoyment,  "but  I'll  grant  it.  You  shall  have  a  clean  shirt 
—yes,  Andrew— and  soap  and  a  razor— and  go  wherever  you  wish. 
For  a  price,  of  course,"  he  added,  tracing  his  pattern. 

Andrew  had  straightened  up  at  the  first  of  his  words.  Now 
his  shoulders  sagged  again. 

"There  would  be,"  he  said,  flatly.  "No." 

"You  haven't  heard  my  terms  yet,"  said  the  Doctor.  "I  ask 
very  little.  Only  a  lapse  of  memory."  He  looked  at  Andrew  but 
Andrew  did  not  reply. 

"I  do  not  even  ask  you  to  go  on  with  your  projected  mar- 
riage." He  continued,  "A  son-in-law,"  his  thumb  crept  along  a 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

tiny  silver  scroll,  "whose  brother  is— disaffected— whose  father- 
will  be  bankrupt— would  hardly  fit  with  my  plans.  All  I  ask  is— 
seven  days  forgotten.  Completely.  Your  word  on  it.  Then  you're 

"Why?"  said  Andrew,  bluntly.  "Why  not  hang  me  out  of 
hand  at  once?" 

"Oh— call  it  a  whim— a  vagary,"  said  the  Doctor  with  masked 
eyes,  "I've  always  rather  loved  f ools— after  my  own  fashion.  And 
then— I'll  be  frank  enough— trying  you  in  Augustine  would  be 
such  a  tedious  business— I  could  carry  it  through— don't  mistake 
me— but  there  might  be  embarrassing  questions.  I'd  rather  have 
your  word." 

"Suppose  I  broke  my  word?" 

"To  be  frank,"  said  the  Doctor,  "I  do  not  care  very  greatly 
what  you  do— out  of  the  Floridas.  Till  then— you  would  sign  a— 
confession— I  have  drawn  up.  You  could  have  it  back— in  time." 

"Confession  of  what?"  said  Andrew. 

"Oh— not  too  much,"  said  the  Doctor,  pursing  his  lips.  "Dis- 
loyalty, chiefly— an  attempt  on  my  daughter's  honor,  perhaps- 
just  enough  to  discredit  you.  I  assure  you  I  should  use  it  with 
the  greatest  reluctance,"  and,  strangely  enough,  Andrew  thought 
that  he  spoke  the  truth. 

"Sebastian  and  Caterina?"  he  said. 

The  Doctor  pondered.  "You  can  have  the  girl,"  he  said  finally. 
"I  should  regret  it,  but  after  all— Mrs.  Gentian  deserves  considera- 
tion. The  man,  no.  I  must  keep  discipline.  But  I  might  merely 
send  him  to  St.  Augustine  prison,  then." 

"What  happens  to  him  otherwise?"  said  Andrew,  breathing. 

"The  currycomb,"  said  the  Doctor  in  a  wisp  of  voice.  "A  dis- 
tressing end." 

Andrew  looked  at  him. 

"I  should  really  advise  against  it,"  said  the  Doctor  very  softly, 
with  his  forefinger  alert.  "You  could  not  possibly  reach  me  in 
time.  Besides,  there  are  always  the  soldiers." 

Andrew  drew  a  long  breath. 

"And-I-?"  he  said. 

"Oh,  you  would  merely  hang,"  said  the  Doctor,  recovering 
his  cheerfulness.  "Merely  hang.  You're  young  to  hang,  Andrew." 

Andrew  passed  his  hand  over  his  eyes,  trying  to  think.  He 


Spanish  Bayonet 

could  save  Sebastian's  life,  Caterina's,  his  own.  Sebastian  was 
patient  and  clever— even  in  the  dungeons  of  St.  Augustine  he 
might  find  some  way  of  escape.  Then  they  would  all  be  saved. 
The  other  way  was  death.  He  could  refuse  for  himself,  and  die, 
but  he  would  not  have  to  die  in  torment  as  Sebastian  must. 

For  an  instant  he  saw  himself  free,  at  the  jail  of  a  ship,  with 
Caterina  at  his  side.  Her  hand  was  lightly  on  his,  she  was  telling 
him  he  had  done  well,  her  eyes  were  gentle.  Cool  as  the  fronds 
of  lilies  floating  on  a  hushed  and  evening  pool,  her  fingers  touched 
his,  and  met,  and  somewhere,  Sebastian  was  smiling  at  them  both 
from  his  dungeon  .  .  . 

His  mind  revolted  from  the  mirage,  smarting  with  shame  and 
self-disgust.  Dr.  Gentian  was  very  adroit.  He  had  put  this  thing 
so  subtly  that  he,  Andrew,  could  not  only  save  himself  but 
Caterina  for  himself  and  fool  his  mind  into  thinking  he  had  acted 
nobly.  No  one  could  accuse  him  if  he  did  this— Sebastian  would 
not— his  own  spirit  might  for  a  while  but  it  would  grow  sleepy— 
a  year  from  now,  this  present  would  be  forgotten,  buried  under 
a  drifting  red-and-yellow  heap  of  leaf-brittle  days  like  the  skele- 
ton of  a  rat,  to  crumble  into  earth  and  water  and  sun.  And 
Sebastian  would  be  still  in  his  dungeon— but  perhaps  Caterina  and 
he  could  buy  him  out  somehow  if  he  had  not  died  .  .  . 

The  stone.  The  bar.  The  escape. 

But  it  seemed  impossible  that  they  should  really  escape.  Dr. 
Gentian  was  too  strong.  He  had  been  in  prison  himself— he  would 
not  have  left  them  there,  together,  unchained,  without  providing 
against  any  escape.  All  the  time  that  they  had  been  gnawing  in 
the  dark  he  had  been  outside  the  window,  listening,  smiling,  till 
he  could  no  longer  contain  the  mirth  in  his  belly  and  went 
slowly  back  to  laugh  at  them  aloud  with  the  devils  that  lived 
in  the  chimney  of  his  study.  Yes,  he  must  have  been  doing  that. 

There  was  no  use  trying  to  bargain  with  him  over  Mr.  Cave's 
projected  plan  of  revolt.  He  knew  of  that,  too,  undoubtedly— 
and  if,  by  some  miracle,  he  did  not,  it  offered  the  one  slim  chance 
that,  in  the  confusion  of  such  an  event,  they  might  escape  indeed. 

Was  he  overrating  Dr.  Gentian's  powers?  Perhaps.  But  as  he 
stared  at  him  now,  with  heavy  eyes,  he  saw  him  as  a  man  no 
longer,  not  even  a  Caesar,  but  something  inhuman,  with  the 
transient  powers  of  the  inhuman  over  human  stuff.  An  undying 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

figure  that  walked  from  the  East,  with  a  cloud  of  flies  above  it, 
and  a  gilt  pomander  in  its  hand. 

"Aren't  you  ever  afraid  of  hell?"  he  found  himself  saying, 
queerly,  with  a  catch  in  his  voice.  "I  should  think  you'd  be  afraid 
of  hell." 

The  smile  on  Dr.  Gentian's  face  became  a  rictus  cut  in  ivory, 
the  muscles  of  the  jaw  stood  out. 

"Why  this  is  hell,  nor  am  I  out  of  it,"  he  quoted  in  a  slow,  dry 
voice.  "  'Think'st  thou  that  I'— did  you  ever  read  Marlowe, 
Andrew?  The  style  is  very  impure— bombastic,  even— he  cannot 
compare  with  Pope— but  there  are  things  in  his  Faustus  which—" 

He  stopped.  His  mouth  relaxed.  But  while  he  spoke,  there 
had  been  something  in  his  face  that  Andrew  had  never  expected 
to  see  there— a  turn  of  the  mouth— a  shape  behind  the  eyes— some- 
thing ruined  and  very  lonely— a  statue  defaced— a  barren  bough 
in  the  gale. 

It  passed.  "Well?"  said  the  easy  voice. 

Andrew  looked  at  the  floor.  He  was  twenty-two.  When  you 
were  twenty-two,  Death  was  something  far-off  that  happened  to 
other  people.  It  needn't  happen  to  him  for  a  long  time. 

What  if  the  Minorcans  were  oppressed?  They  weren't  actually 
slaves.  They  got  along.  Some  people,  maybe,  had  to  be  oppressed. 
It  wasn't  his  quarrel. 

Then  he  saw  them,  young  and  old,  women  and  children,  the 
dead  on  the  voyage,  the  dead  in  the  first  months  of  fever,  the 
priest  swinging  in  his  robes,  the  sallow  boy,  screaming,  under 
the  currycomb.  But  it  wasn't  his  quarrel. 

There  were  two  doors  open.  One  meant  life,  and  a  clean  shirt, 
and  Caterina's  hand  on  his  hand,  by  the  rail  of  a  ship,  at  night, 
while  the  moon  climbed  up  in  heaven  like  a  silver  woman.  The 
other  was  death  for  all  of  them.  He  shut  his  eyes  and  chose  death. 

"No,  I  won't,"  he  said,  in  a  voice  he  was  surprised  to  find  so 

Dr.  Gentian  sighed.  "I'm  sorry,"  he  said.  "Dying  is  so  waste- 
ful. You  can  have  twenty-four  hours  to  think  it  over,  Andrew.  I 
will  see  you  again  tomorrow,  when  they  are  up.  Think  it  over. 
Sergeant,"  he  called  and  struck  on  a  bell.  "I  hate  to  hang  you, 
Andrew— it  will  be  a  great  nuisance.  I  had  a  parrot  once  that 
amused  me.  I  had  to  wring  its  neck.  It  is  much  the  same.  You 
may  take  the  prisoner  back  now,  Sergeant,  if  you  will." 


Spanish  Bayonet 


"He  gave  me  twenty-four  hours,"  Andrew  ended.  He  looked 
at  his  friend. 

"It  is  more  than  enough,"  said  Sebastian.  "We  shall  escape  in 

Before  the  certitude  of  his  tone  the  image  of  Dr.  Gentian  that 
towered  in  Andrew's  mind  like  a  genie  rising  from  a  bottle  in  a 
blue,  magic  fume,  diminished  gradually.  He  became  what  he 
was,  a  man  of  great  parts,  whose  knowledge  of  his  own  abilities 
had  swollen  with  power  till  it  festered,  and  so  spoiled  a  tyrant 
instead  of  making  a  king.  Seen  so,  he  was  no  longer  terrific  or 
even  hateful,  only  beggared,  as  all  men  are  beggared  in  one  way 
or  another  who  seek  from  life  a  passion  more  intense  than  the 
body  can  bear.  He  was  a  king  in  check— a  torch  inverted— a  fire 
that  wasted  itself  against  a  column  of  salt— and  as  Andrew  began 
to  perceive  this,  slowly  and  delicately  as  the  slow  lifting  of  a  slab 
of  bronze  from  his  breast,  the  fear  of  death  passed  from  him  and 
left  him  composed.  It  would  return,  undoubtedly,  but  for  this 
moment,  brier  as  the  flight  of  a  bird  between  tree  and  tree,  it  had 
gone.  He  could  smell  the  mignonette  in  his  mother's  garden. 
Dr.  Gentian  could  kill  them  both,  but  that  was  all  he  could  do. 

"What  are  you  going  to  do,  Sebastian,  when  we  are  free?" 
he  said  casually,  out  of  a  strange  peace. 

"Tell  the  governor  to  free  my  people,"  said  Sebastian.  The 
cool  stone  of  peace  had  touched  at  his  lips  as  well,  he  spoke  with 
the  simplicity  of  a  ghost.  "When  they  are  free—"  he  shrugged. 
"Who  knows?  Life  is  long— there  are  many  things  to  do  before 
the  priest  comes  with  his  oil.  If  I  had  money  I  should  like  to  buy 
a  fishing-boat— my  father  was  a  fisherman.  I  should  like  to  marry, 
too,  and  have  a  son.  It  is  good  to  have  a  son  to  help  you  draw  in 
the  nets.  And  you,  my  friend?" 

"I  shall  go  North,"  said  Andrew.  "Perhaps  to  help  the  ass  you 
spoke  of  kick  off  his  rider— yes."  It  was  the  first  time  he  had 
definitely  put  the  thought  at  the  back  of  his  mind  into  words. 
He  was  astonished  to  find  how  rational  it  sounded.  "After  ali- 
as long  as  they've  called  me  a  traitor—"  he  said,  musingly.  He 
wondered  if  that  were  really  what  he  would  do.  It  was  difficult 
to  see  himself  with  a  ragamuffin  musket,  presenting  it  at  Lion 
and  Unicorn. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Sebastian  nodded.  "I  thought  so,"  he  said.  "There  are  three 
things  one  cannot  run  away  from— war,  love  and  death."  His 
voice  held  that  indolent  fatalism  that  has  so  often  deceived  the 
North  by  its  languid  pride.  "Sometime  I  should  like  to  go  back 
to  Minorca,"  he  confessed.  His  eyes  glittered.  "This  is  a  good 
country,  here,  but  it  is  not  Fererias." 

"Tell  me  about  your  island,"  said  Andrew,  childishly.  He 
settled  himself  in  a  corner  to  listen. 

"You'd  laugh  at  it,  if  you  went  there,"  said  Sebastian.  "It  is 
small  and  harsh  and  poor.  But  the  people  are  friendly  there. 
My  uncle  lives  in  Mahon,  if  he  has  not  died— he  is  a  very  friendly 
and  hospitable  person.  My  aunt  has  copper  pans  in  her  kitchen," 
he  continued,  with  some  pride.  "They  tease  her  about  being  rich 
—she  is  not— they  came  from  her  father  who  was  a  copper-smith 
—but  few  of  us  have  copper  vessels,  even  in  the  town—"  His 
voice  droned  on,  lulling  Andrew  into  the  content  of  a  sleepy 
child.  It  was  now  almost  entirely  dark  in  their  cell,  though  out- 
side the  sun  had  not  yet  set.  There  would  be  hours  still  before 
they  would  be  safe  in  cutting  through  the  rest  of  the  bar,  but 
now  Andrew  did  not  care  how  many  there  were.  The  fear  of 
death  no  longer  ran  about  with  the  rats  in  the  darkness  and  he 
was  quite  happy  listening  to  the  slow  story  of  certain  doings 
in  the  family  of  a  foreign  copper-smith  which  could  not  pos- 
sibly interest  any  person  of  gentility. 

Dr.  Gentian  laid  his  book  down  with  a  sigh,  and  glanced  at  his 
watch.  He  rose,  and  stood  for  a  moment,  observing  how  surely 
and  skilfully  the  petal  of  a  flower  grew  in  rose-colored  silk  upon 
gauze,  under  the  deft,  shining  strokes  of  his  wife's  embroidery 

"That  must  tire  your  eyes,  my  dear— especially  at  night,"  he 
said,  with  solicitude. 

"I  am  never  tired."  She  did  not  turn  her  head  to  answer.  "Are 
you  going  now?" 

"Yes,  my  dear.  I  am  going  now.  You  need  not  wait  up  for 
me.  I  shall  not  be  back  till  late." 

She  made  a  knot  in  the  silk.  "You  never  believe  me,"  she  said, 


Spanish  Bayonet 

*Even  if  I   told   you,   you   were   walking   into   a   pitfall— you 
wouldn't  believe  me." 

He  smiled.  "I  should  merely  think  your  natural  concern  for 
my  safety  had  overbalanced  your  excellent  reason,"  he  said. 

"No  doubt,"  she  said  wearily,  her  face  still  averted.  "Well— 
you  can  go,  then.  I  shan't  wait  up." 

"It  matters  to  you  still,"  he  said,  consideringly.  "That  seems 

"Strange  enough."  Her  eyes  were  fixed  on  her  work.  "You'd 
be  a  clever  man,  Hilary,  if  you  left  well  enough  alone." 

"A  clever  man  never  leaves  well  enough  alone,"  he  said  and 

The  silk  thread  broke  in  her  fingers.  "You're  blind,"  she  said. 
"Blind  and  deaf.  There's  a  shadow  on  your  back  tonight.  But 
you're  deaf  and  blind.  You  only  think  of  playing  cat  and  mouse 
with  that  boy." 

"One  must  have  games."  The  Doctor's  tone  was  amused.  "And 
cat  and  mouse  is  an  excellent  game,  for  the  cat." 

"You'd  better  watch  your  daughter."  She  turned  her  face 
now  and  looked  at  him. 

"My  dear!" 

"I've  told  you.  She  and  her  lackey.  They've  been  too  quiet 
these  last  days.  Oh,  well -go  your  road.  But  my  Greeks  talk  to 
me.  There's  a  rat  in  the  wall  of  this  house,  Hilary— a  rat  in  the 

Her  voice  ceased.  Her  fingers  busied  themselves  re-threading 
the  needle. 

"I  think  you  have  the  gift,  tonight,"  he  said  quietly,  regarding 
her.  "See  for  me,  my  dear." 

His  hand  fell  on  her  shoulder,  light  as  a  butterfly.  She  put  it 
off.  "No,"  she  said  in  a  dry,  thin  voice.  "You're  wrong.  I  haven't 
had  the  sight  for  years.  If  I  had  it  tonight,  would  I  use  it?  No." 

"Not  for  me?"  His  mouth  had  honey  in  it. 

"No."  Her  fingers  were  moving  again,  she  seemed  to  have  no 
mind  for  anything  but  her  silk.  "Not  for  you." 

He  sighed.  "Be  consoled,"  he  said.  "I  shan't  live  for  ever.  In- 
deed, sometimes  I  wonder  that  I  have  been  able  to  live  this  long." 

"It  would  be  like  you  to  die  first,"  she  agreed,  remorselessly. 
A  flash  passed  over  her  face.  "I'd  save  you  from  that,"  she  said, 
with  a  prick  of  her  needle. 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

He  chuckled  a  little.  "I  believe  you.  I  believe  you,  indeed. 
But  if  something  should— cripple  me,  for  instance— just  enough 

She  drew  in  a  deep  breath.  "Some  time,"  she  said,  huskily.  "Soon 
or  late.  The  candle's  not  burnt  to  the  wick  yet.  I  can  wait  for  it." 

"Really,  sometimes,  one  would  think  you  believed  in  the  fates, 
my  dear.  If  one  didn't  know  you." 

"I  believe  in  waiting,"  she  said,  nodding  her  head.  "Yes,  I 
believe  in  waiting." 

His  fingers  twitched,  momentarily.  "I  wish  you'd  see  for  me," 
he  said. 

She  made  no  reply.  He  hesitated  for  a  moment,  oddly  inde- 
cisive. Then  he  looked  at  his  watch  again  and  turned  toward 
the  door. 

"Good  night,  my  dear." 

The  second  petal  of  the  flower  was  half-completed,  the  needle 
stitched  on,  the  face  was  averted  anew.  "Good  night,"  said  the 
dry,  colorless  voice.  Dr.  Gentian  passed  out  of  the  room.  With  his 
hand  on  the  latch  of  the  front  door  he  hesitated  for  a  second 
time  and  threw  a  glance  back  up  the  stairs.  Then  he  shook  his 
head  impatiently,  opened  the  door  and  went  out. 

As  soon  sas  his  footsteps  had  died  away,  Mrs.  Gentian  rose. 
Very  softly  indeed,  she  climbed  the  stairs  to  the  upper  corridor 
and  paused,  listening,  outside  the  door  of  her  daughter's  room. 
She  scratched  on  the  panel  twice,  gently— no  sound  replied. 
"Sparta,"  she  called  in  a  low,  sharp  voice,  waited,  repeated  the 
call.  The  name  fell  into  darkness  and  was  absorbed,  no  echo 
mocked  it  even.  Mrs.  Gentian  laughed  under  her  breath  and 
opened  the  door  of  the  room.  The  light  of  her  candle  showed 
it  empty,  the  bed  undisturbed.  She  nodded,  as  if  in  assent  to 
an  unspoken  query  and  stood  in  the  doorway  for  a  moment, 
erect  as  an  effigy,  not  seeming  to  notice  that  when  her  candle 
guttered  it  shook  flecks  of  hot  wax  on  her  dress.  Then  she  shut 
the  door  and  went  softly  down  the  stairs  again,  returning  to  her 
chair  and  her  needlework.  Her  face  seemed  at  once  resolved  and 
satisfied,  and,  for  a  time,  the  pattern  of  her  embroidery  had 
never  grown  more  swiftly.  Then,  after  a  while,  the  pace  of  her 
fingers  slackened  and  stopped.  The  embroidery  still  lay  in  her 
lap,  but  she  worked  at  it  no  longer,  though  she  remained  sitting 
in  the  chair,  with  folded  hands  and  that  curious  expression  on 


Spanish  Bayonet 

her  face,  her  head  bent  a  little  forward,  as  if  she  were  listening 
for  the  wind  to  bring  her  a  piece  of  long-expected  news. 

Meanwhile,  Dr.  Gentian  was  walking  briskly  down  the  road 
to  the  guardhouse.  He  carried  a  light  cane  in  one  hand  and  was 
humming  to  himself  and  now  and  then  cutting  little  flourishes 
in  the  air  with  his  cane.  The  moon  was  up  enough  for  him  to 
pick  his  way  along  the  well  known  path  without  hesitation,  while 
his  mind  turned  over  one  thing  and  another  in  its  usual  active 
fashion.  His  wife's  words  had  stirred  him  more  than  he  cared  to 
admit  and,  not  for  the  first  time,  he  felt,  with  some  annoyance, 
that  there  was  some  quality  in  her  which  even  he  could  only 
master  by  snatches,  unless  she  willed  to  have  it  so. 

She  was  the  only  person  he  had  ever  met  who  did  not  sooner 
or  later  betray  himself  or  herself  by  talking  too  much.  He  had 
taught  her  that  trick  of  reticence,  likely  enough— but  now  it 
seemed  to  him,  uneasily,  that  the  pupil  was  beginning  to  out- 
strip her  master.  It  must  not  be  so— yet  what  could  he  do  to 
change  it?  He  could  not  deal  with  her  as  he  dealt  with  others— 
from  their  first  meeting  he  had  thought  of  her  as  the  living 
symbol  of  his  luck  and  the  broadening  of  that  vein  of  supersti- 
tion which  was  his  weakness,  during  these  later  years,  had  only 
increased  the  feeling.  The  fierce  passion  that  had  first  united 
them  was  long  extinguished,  but  her  words  still  carried  a  cer- 
tain weight  of  omen  for  him,  and  at  times  he  came  closer  being 
afraid  of  her  than  he  ever  had  been  of  any  merely  human  being. 

He  smiled  a  little,  recalling  certain  events.  What  a  sharp,  wild, 
dazzling  creature  she  had  been  in  her  first  youth— not  fair  in 
Sparta's  fashion,  not  fair  at  all  in  the  way  he  consciously  ad- 
mired, but  with  a  fire  in  her  like  the  fire  at  the  heart  of  his 
emerald.  Wooing  her  had  been  like  wooing  a  tiger-cub— his  mind 
still  bore  the  scars  o/  it,  for  all  its  balance,  as  his  body  bore  the 
thin,  seamed  scar  of  the  knife  she  had  struck  him  with,  long 
ago,  when  she  thought  he  looked  too  often  at  that  dark  little 
Cypriote.  For  an  instant  his  body  felt  young,  and  he  saw,  from  a 
tossing  boat,  a  torch  flaring  at  the  mouth  of  a  cave  and  a  girl's 
intense  and  eager  face  in  the  red  gush  of  light. 

She  would  not  strike  him  with  a  knife  again.  That  had  been 
in  the  days  of  their  passion,  and  they  and  his  youth  were  over. 
Her  love  had  taken  a  deal  of  killing,  certainly.  He  felt  that  to  be 
unfortunate,  honestly  enough,  for  unnecessary  ugliness  always 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

offended  him.  But  it  would  have  been  the  same  with  any  other 
man— she  was  not  the  sort  that  lived  easily.  In  any  event,  she 
hated  him  now,  but  it  did  not  matter,  for,  in  spite  of  her  hate, 
he  had  a  unique  sort  of  confidence  in  her.  The  struggle  between 
them  would  only  end  with  life,  but  in  the  pauses  of  it  they 
understood  each  other. 

He  smiled— it  would  seem  a  queer  way  of  living  to  that  boy 
in  the  guardhouse.  One  had  to  give  up  youth  to  taste  the  full 
flavor  of  hazard— youth  lacked  the  steadiness  of  hand.  For  him- 
self, the  constant  experiment  of  sharing  meat  and  drink,  year-in, 
year-out,  with  a  creature  whose  heart  still  held  the  savage  so 
barely  kept  in  check  by  mere  adroitness  of  eye  and  hand,  was 
life  and  a  good  one.  Some  day,  no  doubt,  the  eye  would  fail  or 
the  hand  lose  cunning,  and  he  would  be  torn.  Well,  let  it  be  so, 
he  had  had  his  game. 

Meanwhile,  there  were  other  diversions,  such  as  that  he  pur- 
posed for  this  evening.  He  would  think  of  that  now,  and  taste 
it  in  expectation.  But  when  he  tried  to  do  so,  his  wife's  words 
beat  in  his  ears,  and  he  came  to  a  halt  for  a  moment,  leaning  a 
little  on  his  cane.  After  all,  it  was  possible  to  alter  his  plans.  He 
had  given  too  much  time  to  young  Beard  these  last  months— 
too  little  to  the  plantation.  Cave,  too,  he  had  been  careless  recently 
with  Cave— he  suspected  Cave  and  the  lesser  animals  in  general 
of  getting  a  little  out  of  hand.  Perhaps  it  might  be  well  to- 
then  he  shook  his  head.  His  project  for  tonight  was  too  well 
matured— tomorrow  would  be  time  enough  for  Cave  and  the 
others.  He  cut  a  weed  down  with  his  cane  and  went  on,  but, 
though  a  stranger  would  have  thought  his  bearing  composed 
enough,  he  was  not  entirely  at  ease. 

Now  it  seemed  to  him  that  he  could  hear  movement  far  off 
in  the  woods  at  his  left.  He  stopped  again  and  listened.  Some- 
thing was  abroad  in  the  woods,  undoubtedly,  but  the  sound  was 
too  indistinct  for  him  to  make  it  out  clearly.  A  shadow  darted 
between  two  trees  near  the  road— a  man  with  a  bag  on  his  back 
—he  opened  his  mouth  to  call  at  it— no,  it  was  only  a  trick  of 
the  eye.  As  for  the  distant  sound,  now  quieted,  it  might  be  a 
couple  of  strayed  deer  or  a  band  of  half-tame  Indians  on  a  rice- 
stealing  expedition— the  latter  most  probably.  The  Indians  had 
been  growing  bold,  lately— he  must  see  to  that,  too.  Again,  he 
was  almost  on  the  point  of  turning  back  to  the  coquina-house. 


Spanish  Bayonet 

Then  he  looked  at  his  watch  once  more— it  was  later  than  he  had 
supposed— the  tiny  fact  decided  him.  He  marched  on,  swinging 
his  cane— the  moon  had  a  bright  face  tonight— the  features  of 
the  man  in  it  were  distinct.  He  thought  of  the  old  story  and 
smiled.  The  moon,  as  a  post  of  observation,  would  have  its  ad- 

He  turned  a  corner— there  were  guardhouse  and  storehouses 
below  him,  their  roofs  wintry  with  moonlight.  The  quiet 
familiarity  of  the  scene  blew  the  last  of  his  uneasiness  away— 
he  had  never  felt  more  sure  of  himself  or  his  luck.  A  few  paces 
away  from  the  guardhouse  door  he  was  challenged  in  a  low 
voice  by  a  sentry,  held  a  conversation  in  whispers  for  a  minute, 
and  then  went  in. 

The  minutes  passed,  the  still,  glittering  face  rose  higher  in  the 
sky  till  the  night  was  perfect.  It  cast  a  long  straggling  shadow 
over  the  barred  window  of  Andrew's  cell  and  a  bright  pool  on 
the  floor  of  Sparta  Gentian's  empty  chamber.  In  the  deep  woods 
that  gave  upon  the  St.  Augustine  road  it  barely  pierced  enough 
to  touch  with  occasional  silver  the  faces  and  bodies  of  men  and 
women  who  came  slipping  silently  between  the  trees,  one  by 
one,  like  deer  trooping  together,  till  the  road  was  full  of  them. 
They  came  from  the  direction  of  the  colony,  burdened  with 
packs  or  children— there  seemed  no  end  to  their  number— they 
greeted  each  other  in  hushed  voices— soon  the  first  of  them  were 
filtering  away  down  the  road. 

In  the  colony  itself  the  silver  dagger  fell  upon  a  different  sort 
of  surreptitious  stir,  and  a  clotting  together  of  shadowy  shapes 
on  the  skirts  of  the  Italian  quarter.  Dr.  Gentian  had  wished  better 
than  he  knew  when  he  had  wished  for  a  post  of  observation 
upon  the  cold  peaks  of  the  moon,  and  it  was  unfortunate  for  him 
that  his  wish  could  not  have  been  granted.  As  it  was  he  sat  in 
the  guardhouse,  tapping  his  snuffbox  and  recapitulating  the  heads 
of  a  certain  discourse  he  intended  to  deliver  shortly,  ignorant 
that  events  already  in  train  were  to  render  that  discourse  quite 

Mrs.  Gentian,  however,  was  soon  to  be  better  informed.  Her 
rigid  attitude  of  the  listener  had  not  altered  for  the  last  half 
hour,  she  sat  in  her  chair  like  a  sculpture,  her  hands  were  marble. 
Only  her  eyes  discovered  life  in  them,  deep  in  the  pupils,  con- 
tained, patient  and  somehow  dreadful  in  its  certitude,  like  the 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

life  in  the  eyes  of  a  spirit  caught  in  a  cleft  stone.  She  was  waiting 
for  a  sound,  and  already  the  last  moments  of  her  vigil  were  upon 
her.  A  mile  away,  even  as  one  shape  among  the  clotted  shapes  at 
the  edge  of  the  Italian  huts  began  to  issue  orders  to  the  others, 
a  Greek  boy  watched  from  a  shadow  and  then  crawled  off,  to 
break  into  a  run  for  the  coquina-house  as  soon  as  he  was  well 
away  from  the  huts. 



The  file  grated  for  an  instant  and  then  bit  air.  Andrew  gave  a. 
tug  at  the  bar  and  nearly  fell  over  backward  as  it  came  out  in 
his  hand.  He  stared  at  it  incredulously.  The  end  of  their  work 
had  come. 

"We're  through,  Sebastian,"  he  whispered,  "Sebastian,  Sebas- 
tian, give  me  a  hand  with  the  stone!" 

The  stone  was  stubborn,  but  at  last  they  managed  to  pry  it 
free.  Then  they  stood  and  gazed  at  the  gap  for  a  second  of 

It  only  lasted  a  second.  Even  while  they  gazed  at  it  they  knew, 
dreadfully,  that  they  had  miscalculated.  The  hole  was  just  too 
small.  Both  tried  it,  hopefully,  defiantly,  hopelessly. 

"Cut  through  another  bar,"  said  Andrew,  finally,  when  they 
knew  they  were  beaten.  "Cut  through  another  bar."  The  thought 
of  starting  in  at  the  beginning  again  appalled  him  so  that  he 
could  not  trust  himself  to  say  any  more.  This  last  stroke,  at  the 
very  edge  of  deliverance,  was  the  worst  of  all.  He  had  thought 
himself  free  of  Fear— he  had  been  a  child  shaking  a  rattle.  Fear 
had  only  crept  away  for  a  moment  to  make  its  return  more 
deadly—now  it  settled  into  his  back  like  a  huge,  soft  animal 
whose  claws  were  iron  needles.  He  could  feel  the  cold,  salt  sweat 
of  it  on  his  forehead  and  hands. 

"Anyhow,  it  will  give  us  two  weapons  instead  of  one,"  mut- 
tered Sebastian  with  bitter  philosophy  as  he  worked  in  a  con- 
tained fury  of  haste.  Andrew  could  have  hated  him  for  saying 


Spanish  Bayonet 

that,  if  there  had  been  time.  But  there  was  no  time  for  either  hate 
or  thought  or  self-pity—there  was  only  time  for  fear  and  the  con- 
tinuous, muffled  grate  of  the  file. 

After  a  while  they  discovered  that,  with  the  stone  gone,  they 
could  cramp  themselves  against  each  other  perilously  in  such  a 
way  that  both  could  file.  Even  so,  it  took  an  eternity  till  the  sec- 
ond bar  was  cut  through.  But  at  last  that  too  was  accomplished. 

"Now,"  said  Sebastian,  shivering.  "Now,  my  friend." 

Half  the  window  was  blocked  by  his  shoulders— then  he  was 
worming  out  on  his  side.  Andrew's  last  view  of  him  was  of  a 
pair  of  shoe-soles  that  waggled  absurdly  for  a  moment  and  dis- 
appeared. He  waited  ten  breaths.  No  sound.  Sebastian  must  be 
safe  in  the  ditch.  He  transferred  the  iron  thing  he  was  clutching 
to  his  left  hand.  It  was  cold  in  his  hand.  He  gulped  and  started 
to  follow  Sebastian. 

He  slid  into  the  ditch  head-first,  and  lay  there  on  his  belly,  flat 
as  a  lizard.  After  his  days  of  confinement  the  outside  world 
seemed  formidably  large  and  open.  He  was  glad  for  the  walls 
of  the  ditch— even  with  their  protection,  he  felt  as  lonely  and 
conspicuous  as  a  shelled  oyster.  He  listened.  All  that  he  could 
hear  was  the  distant  bubble  of  water  in  an  irrigation  canal  and  the 
mutter  of  wind  in  the  palms.  Now  the  wind  rattled  a  dry  leaf 
somewhere,  like  a  boy  shaking  a  fan,  and  he  started.  Where  was 
Sebastian?  He  stretched  out  his  hand,  by  inches,  and  was  enor- 
mously relieved  when  at  last  it  touched  a  shod  heel. 

"Scbas— "  he  started  to  whisper. 

uSsh,"  a  whisper  answered,  "sentry."  The  heel  started  to  writhe 
away  from  him.  He  followed  it,  doing  his  best  to  make  no 
noise.  That  had  been  the  plan,  to  worm  along  the  ditch  till 
they  were  on  the  side  of  the  prison  farthest  from  the  guard- 
room, opposite  the  smaller  storehouse.  Then  they  would  have  to 
take  to  the  open. 

This  crawling  was  a  slow,  ludicrous  business,  especially  when 
you  had  to  carry  a  bar  of  iron  in  one  hand.  For  a  moment  he 
was  reminded  of  a  sack-race,  and  almost  giggled  aloud.  How 
the  devil  did  Sebastian  get  ahead  so  fast?  He  could  get  along 
faster  if  he  dropped  this  silly  bar.  No,  better  not. 

They  were  around  the  corner  now.  He  raised  his  head,  gin- 
gerly, and  caught  a  glimpse  of  the  black  bulk  of  the  storehouse. 


Stephen  Vincent  Ben£t 

Sebastian  had  stopped.  A  hand  came  back  through  the  darkness 
and  dug  into  his  shoulder.  Keep  quiet,  that  meant.  He  lay  frozen 
to  the  ground. 

Suddenly,  and  without  the  slightest  warning,  a  grumbling  voice 
spoke  out  of  invisibility— a  voice  that  seemed  not  a  dozen  feet 
away  from  his  head. 

"Devil  fly  away  with  this  musket— my  arm's  gone  asleep  again!" 
it  said,  in  tones  of  cockney  irritation.  Something  stamped  on  the 

"Shut  your  mouth,  you  misbegotten  son  of  a  sweep,"  said  an- 
other voice,  low  and  irate.  "Are  you  a  soldier  or  a  nursemaid?" 

"I'm  a  nursemaid,"  grumbled  the  first  voice— Andrew  knew  it 
now— it  belonged  to  one  of  the  privates  who  had  marched  him 
to  prison— the  other  voice  was  the  sergeant's.  "A  bloody  private 
nursemaid  to  a  couple  of  stinkin'  prisoners  what's  going  to  escape 
and  what  never  escapes.  Why  in  'ell  can't  'Is  Majesty  let  'em 
escape  in  daylight  when  a  man  can  see  to  shoot?" 

"You  let  them  get  through  and  you'll  find  out  what,  soon 
enough,"  said  the  other  voice,  grimly.  "Orders  are,  take  alive  or 
dead.  Remember  that." 

"Just  button  'em  up  in  my  pocket  /  suppose,"  said  the, first 
voice  in  an  unimpressed  whine.  The  other  voice  seemed  to  choke 
for  a  while.  When  it  recovered  it  discussed  a  question  of  ancestry 
with  some  vividness. 

"Oh,  all  right,  sergeant,  all  right,"  commented  the  first  voice, 
resignedly.  "But  a  man  can't  'elp  'is  feelin's.  If  it  was  an  eskylade 
now,  I'd  be  breathin'  as  easy  as  a  babby.  But  this  'ole  and  corner 
work  ain't  work  for  a  soldier.  W'y  can't  'Is  Majesty  shoot  the 
pore  buggers  'imself  if  'e  wants  'em  shot?  Tell  me  that,  now," 
it  concluded  triumphantly,  "an'  I'll  stand  you  a  pot  o'  beer." 

"Go  ask  him,"  said  the  sergeant's  voice,  very  bitterly.  "Go 
ask  him,  Bowbells.  He's  in  the  guard-room  now,  just  waiting  for 
some  son  of  a  whore  to  ask  him  a  question  like  that.  By  God, 
he'd  crucify  you." 

"Like  enough,"  grunted  the  other.  "Doctor  'e  calls  'imself."  He 
spat.  "/  wouldn't  trust  him  to  poison  a  sergeant." 

"You're  a  drunk  disgrace  to  the  British  Army,"  said  the 
sergeant's  voice  with  sour  finality,  "and  I'd  have  you  in  the 
calabooze  this  minute  if—" 

"Aye,"  saM  the  other,  thoughtfully,  "//  I  wasn't  a  pearl  o7 


Spanish  Bayonet 

marksmen—and  if  you  could  draw  a  cordon  round  'ere  without 
me— and  hif  I  didn't  know  'oo  buggered  the  last  payroll— Most 
likely.  Run  along,  sergeant,  and  wipe  the  other  boys'  noses  for 
'em.  You  can  rest  easy  about  this  side— there'll  be  two  beautiful 
corpses  to  show  'Is  Majesty  if  they  tries  to  run  my  post." 

"You're  drunk,  you  fool,"  said  the  sergeant  acridly,  and  de- 
parted. "Wish  I  was,"  said  the  other  voice,  a  trifle  plaintively,  as 
Andrew  heard  the  heavy  boots  crunch  away. 

He  raised  his  head  cautiously,  inch  by  inch.  There  was  a  little 
bush  at  the  lip  of  the  ditch— it  would  hide  him  as  he  recon- 

The  sentry  was  just  too  far  away,  in  the  shadowed  door  of  the 
storehouse.  For  all  his  sleepy  arm,  he  seemed  terribly  alert  and 
there  were  at  least  thirty  yards  of  open  moonlit  ground  between 
him  and  them.  If  they  rushed  him,  one  of  them  would  be  killed 
or  disabled  in  the  rush  and  the  other  would  have  to  kill  at  once, 
in  his  turn,  before  the  shot  brought  up  the  rest  of  the  guard. 

It  was  like  Dr.  Gentian,  this.  Very  like  him.  He  could  see  Dr. 
Gentian  in  a  cane-chair  in  the  guard-room,  waiting  composedly 
for  his  birds  to  fly  into  the  snare. 

He  sank  back  into  the  ditch  again.  He  felt  stiff  and  cramped. 
Dying  couldn't  be  much  worse.  Sebastian  had  turned  around 
somehow,  he  could  see  his  face.  He  put  his  own  face  close. 
"When  you  say,  Sebastian,"  his  lips  formed,  without  sound.  He 
saw  Sebastian's  body  grow  taut  and  his  own  muscles  tightened. 
Then  Sebastian's  expression  changed.  "Not  yet,"  he  whispered. 
He  hunched  down  and  began  to  crawl  still  farther  along  the 

Andrew  followed  him  without  hope.  As  he  crawled,  he 
thought  of  a  rat  he  had  seen  once  in  a  stable.  It  was  an  old,  sick- 
looking  rat  with  gray  streaks  in  its  fur  and  it  had  been  hitching 
slowly  along  the  wall,  looking  for  its  hole.  When  it  had  heard 
his  step  it  had  shown  yellow  teeth  in  a  weak  snarl  and  crouched 
to  the  floor  and  he  had  realized  that  its  eyes  were  white  and 
blind.  He  felt  a  certain  kinship  now  for  that  rat. 

They  had  reached  the  end  of  the  ditch  on  that  side  of  the 
guardhouse.  Sebastian  had  stopped  and  was  raising  himself  up 
a  little.  Madness.  No,  not  entirely.  The  ground  fell  away  sharply 
beyond  this  part  of  the  ditch.  If  they  could  take  five  steps  across 
a  swathe  of  moonlight  they  could  roll  into  a  shadow.  But  even 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

as  Andrew  saw  this,  the  sentry  at  the  storehouse  turned  his  head 
slowly  toward  them.  He  ducked  his  head  down  again  with  a 
little  gulp.  If  a  cloud  would  only  cross  the  moon!  But  there 
seemed  to  be  no  real  clouds  in  all  the  expanse  of  heaven— only 
a  few  little  wisps  of  silver  wool  that  would  hardly  veil  the  bright 
face  for  more  than  an  instant. 

Sebastian  was  fumbling  in  the  bottom  of  the  ditch  for  some- 
thing—a stone.  He  crouched  with  the  stone  in  his  hand,  looking 
up  at  the  sky.  One  of  the  little  wisps  was  blowing  toward  the 
moon  like  a  drifted  feather.  Sebastian  drew  his  arm  back,  waiting. 
Now  the  feather  touched  the  disk,  and,  for  an  instant,  as  Sebas- 
tian's stone,  cleanly  flung,  crashed  into  the  bushes  at  the  sentry's 
left,  the  heart  went  out  of  the  moonlight. 

The  next  moment  they  were  out  of  the  ditch  and  huddled 
together  in  the  shadow.  Andrew,  out  of  the  tail  of  his  eye,  had 
somehow  caught  a  glimpse  of  the  sentry  whirling  away  from 
them  to  face  the  bushes  where  the  stone  had  fallen.  Now  every 
moment  he  waited  for  a  cry  or  a  musket  shot,  but  moment  after 
moment  passed,  and  there  was  neither  shot  nor  cry.  Luck  was 
with  them— so  far,  they  had  not  been  seen.  He  wondered  where 
the  other  sentries  were  posted. 

They  crawled  along  to  the  edge  of  their  shadow,  hugging  it 
fondly.  The  slight  fall  in  ground  deepened  to  a  little  gully  that 
hid  them  better— now  the  storehouse  was  between  them  and  the 
first  sentry  and  they  could  breathe  a  trifle  easier.  They  were 
going  in  the  opposite  direction  from  the  wharves,  but  that  they 
could  not  help  till  they  were  sure  of  having  passed  beyond  the 
cordon.  When  it  seemed  that  they  must  have  done  so,  they  began 
to  circle  back,  Sebastian  leading  the  way.  He  slipped  along  like 
an  Indian,  Andrew  tried  despairingly  to  copy  his  lightness  of 
foot.  At  last  they  were  down  below  the  storehouse  and  the  way 
ahead  seemed  clear.  Andrew  snatched  a  look  at  the  sentry  through 
a  screen  of  brush.  The  man  was  yawning,  eyes  squinted,  head 
thrown  back.  He  had  a  ridiculous  impulse  to  flip  a  pebble  at 
the  gaping  mouth,  and  between  that  and  dreading  the  sound  of 
his  own  feet  was  so  absorbed  that  when  Sebastian,  creeping  ahead 
of  him,  suddenly  darted  into  the  door  of  a  deserted  and  roofless 
hut  by  the  side  of  the  woodpath,  his  nerves  jerked  like  plucked 

Once  inside  the  hut,  he  soon  knew  the  reason  for  their  taking 


Spanish  Bayonet 

cover.  There  were  footsteps  and  a  mumble  of  talk  coming  up 
toward  the  hut  from  the  lower  road.  "Tricked,"  said  a  leaden 
accent:  "Tricked,  by  God.  A  pack  of  lousy  indigo-diggers 
to  trick  us  so."  Andrew  recognized  the  dull,  detested  voice  with 
a  pang  of  hate.  A  lucid  whisper— serene  pulse  of  gold  trembling 
in  hollow  of  crystal  shell— answered  the  voice  and  soothed  it. 
"It  does  not  matter,  Charles.  We  can  do  without  the  Mahonese." 

"Aye,"  said  Cave.  "Aye.  We'll  have  to  do  without  them,  now. 
But— tricked,  by  God.  I  can't  get  over  it,  sweetheart.  Who'd  have 
thought  they  had  the  guts  in  them  to  run  away?" 

"Charles,  Charles,  don't  think  of  that  now.  We  are  wasting 

There  was  a  mutter,  then  the  voices  sank.  Andrew  glared 
cautiously  through  a  chink  in  the  rotten  wall  of  the  hut.  It  was 
folly  he  knew,  but  he  could  not  lie  there  and  listen  without 
trying  to  see.  Not  ten  steps  away,  in  a  patch  of  moonlight,  stood 
Sparta  and  Mr.  Cave.  They  were  talking  together  in  soft,  tense 
voices— she  had  her  hand  on  his  wrist,  she  was  wheedling  him 
as  if  he  were  an  unruly  child. 

She  was  dressed  entirely  in  dark  stuffs,  a  dark  handkerchief 
hid  her  hair,  the  cold  chastity  of  the  light  gave  her  features  a 
new  beauty,  severe,  untainted  by  color,  the  sharp  beauty  of  the 
cutting  edge.  Andrew  thought  of  a  silver  axe  in  a  scabbard  of 
black  glass— she  had  put  away  gold  for  the  time  and  with  it  the 
burning  gleam  of  dayspring  and  planet— the  dark  handkerchief 
capped  her  head  as  smoothly  and  reticently  as  a  helmet— she 
looked  like  the  merciless  genius  of  combat  itself,  neither  man  nor 
woman  nor  spirit,  but  something  arisen  out  of  the  ground  with 
an  arrow  in  its  hand.  He  could  see  her  standing  in  a  chariot, 
Hippolyta,  the  amazon  queen  with  the  maimed  and  iron  breast, 
wrapped  in  the  glittering  fleece  of  a  golden  ram  and  urging  her 
cloud-born  horses  like  harnessed  gods  across  the  tarnished  bodies 
of  the  dead.  For  an  instant,  as  her  face  sank  into  his  mind,  it 
seemed  just  that  it  should  be  so,  and  he  forgot  alike  that  he 
had  loved  her  and  that  she  had  betrayed  him. 

She  had  too  much  of  her  father  in  her  to  live  securely,  with 
an  even  heart.  Only  violence  and  the  brittle  loadstone  of  danger 
could  release  from  its  cage  of  sleep,  the  immortal  enemy  which 
lay  enchained  in  that  flesh  like  an  archangel  in  bonds.  Now  he 
saw  it  released,  a  pillar  of  darkness,  and  trembled,  but  not  wholly 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

with  fear  or  hate.  The  beauty  it  had  was  the  beauty  of  the  tiger 
and  the  killing  frost,  but  it  was  beauty,  and  somewhere  at  a 
point  beyond  the  system  of  the  stars,  the  unappeasable  ecstasy 
of  its  pain  lay  down  on  a  glittering  field  and  slept  between  a 
dove  and  a  hooded  eagle.  Cave  was  a  different  matter—his  dark- 
ness was  the  muddy  darkness  of  a  fire  of  wet  straw— and  Andrew 
felt  he  could  have  killed  him  without  the  slightest  compunction. 
But  in  Sparta,  as  she  was  tonight,  there  was  something  that  would 
have  turned  his  hand  aside. 

Now  the  two  separated,  having  come  to  some  decision  be- 
tween them  that  Andrew  was  unable  to  catch,  and  Sparta  glided 
away  toward  the  rear  of  the  storehouse.  Andrew  could  only  fol- 
low her  progress  vaguely,  but  it  seemed  to  him  that  she  left  a 
stir  in  the  darkness  behind  her  as  she  passed.  Cave  remained 
where  he  was  for  some  moments,  biting  his  nails.  Andrew  ges- 
tured to  Sebastian,  inquiringly— attack  him?  Sebastian  shook  his 
head  violently,  jerked  a  thumb  toward  the  way  that  Sparta  had 
gone  and  made  motions  of  counting  a  troop  of  men.  Andrew 
nodded,  his  heart  thumping.  There  were  others,  then— they  had 
blundered  into  the  hut  just  in  time. 

He  regarded  Mr.  Cave's  back  with  sullen  distaste— would  he 
never  move  away  and  set  them  free?  Now  he  turned,  his  eye 
fell  casually  on  the  hut,  he  made  as  if  to  come  closer  but  thought 
better  of  it.  Andrew  felt  the  muscles  of  his  belly  contract,  and 
his  fingers  clench  on  the  bar.  A  mocking-bird  whistled  from 
somewhere,  and  Mr.  Cave  grew  still.  It  whistled  again  and  he  put 
his  shoulders  back  and  started  to  walk  toward  the  sentry,  crack- 
ling the  twigs  underfoot  deliberately  as  he  went  as  if  he  wanted 
the  sentry  to  hear. 

The  sentry  heard  and  stiffened,  musket  to  his  shoulder.  "Who 
goes  there? "  he  challenged  softly. 

Mr.  Cave  stopped  just  on  the  edge  of  the  open  ground.  "Over- 
seer Cave,"  he  said  in  a  flat  voice,  his  bearish  shoulders  stooped. 

"Come  out  where  I  can  look  at  you,  overseer,"  said  the  sentry 
briskly,  his  eye  along  the  barrel. 

Mr.  Cave  approached  slowly.  "It's^all  right,  Jenkin,"  he  said 
in  a  confidential  voice,  "I  know  your  orders.  They  don't  apply 
to  me.  I've  a  message  for  the  Doctor.'' 

"Sorry,  overseer,"  said  the  sentry,  lowering  his  musket.  "Have 


Spanish  Bayonet 

to  wait  till  the  sergeant  makes  rounds  again.  Strict  orders—nobody 
to  pass." 

uYou  can  read,  I  suppose,"  said  Mr.  Cave  with  heavy  sarcasm, 
coming  nearer,  "I  have  a  pass.  Dr.  Gentian's  signature." 

The  sentry  shook  his  head. 

"Don't  know  anything  about  passes,"  he  said.  "Show  it  to 
the  sergeant,"  but  he  brought  his  musket  down  and  leaned  for- 
ward as  if  to  inspect  a  paper. 

"But  I'm  in  a  hurry,  I  tell  you,"  said  Mr.  Cave,  very  near  him. 
Then,  to  Andrew's  astonishment,  the  sentry  continued  to  lean 
forward  till  he  had  passed  his  center  of  balance  and,  with  a 
gasp,  was  falling  as  it  he  intended  to  embrace  Mr.  Cave  in  his 
outstretched  arms.  Mr.  Cave  caught  him  deftly  and  lowered  him 
to  the  ground. 

"Well  done,  lass,"  he  said  in  a  whisper  to  the  skirted  shadow 
that  had  crept  around  the  other  corner  of  the  storehouse  and 
struck  the  sentry  down  from  behind.  He  raised  his  voice  a  little. 
"Come  on,  boys,"  he  called  softly,  and  the  night  was  suddenly 
populous  with  catlike  shapes.  One  stooped  over  the  fallen  sentry 
—his  hand  glittered  with  something  thin  and  bright— there  was  the 
chuck  of  a  flat  stone  striking  water  on  its  edge,  and  a  horrible, 
muffled  coughing. 

"Sergeant  of  the  Guard!"  came  a  doleful  howl  from  another 
quarter  of  the  compass,  "Sergeant  of  the  Guard!"  A  musket  shot 
clanged  on  the  moonlight.  Then  events  began  to  succeed  each 
other  far  too  rapidly  for  Andrew  to  keep  track  of  them. 

He  was  out  of  the  hut,  with  Sebastian,  and  running.  A  man 
with  big  white  teeth  which  glittered  like  dominoes,  rose  out  of 
a  bush  like  an  evil  fairy  and  struck  at  him  violently  with  a  long, 
curved  hook.  He  felt  the  iron  bar  in  his  hand  whirl  down  and  hit 
vSomething  that  smashed  like  a  loaded  egg  and  jarred  his  wrist. 
He  stumbled  and  fell.  There  was  shouting  in  his  ears  and  a  pop- 
pop-pop  of  musketry  abruptly  silenced.  He  caught  a  glimpse  of 
their  lugubrious  jailer-corporal  jabbing  furiously  at  something 
behind  a  tree.  Mr.  Cave  bellowed  a  command— an  even  voice  that 
Andrew  knew  called  orders  in  reply.  Something  that  hummed 
like  a  wasp  snipped  a  twig  from  a  bough  in  front  of  his  face- 
he  jerked  and  went  into  an  irrigation  ditch  with  a  smacking  splash 
—behind  him  somebody  was  screaming  "Oh,  Jesus,  oh,  Jesus,  oh, 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet    , 

Jesus!"  in  a  high,  affronted  whine— now  Sebastian  was  pulling 
him  out  of  the  ditch  and  they  were  running  again.  Then, 
abruptly,  he  was  dragged  into  a  dark  pocket  between  two  build- 
ings while  a  dozen  men  whose  leader  carried  a  truss  of  blazing 
straw  on  a  pole  went  by  at  a  trot. 

"Where  are  we?"  he  wheezed,  lungs  laboring.  He  discovered, 
with  surprise,  that  the  iron  bar  was  still  in  his  hand.  The  other 
end  of  it  dripped. 

"They've  missed  us,"  said  Sebastian.  "Too  busy— up  there—" 
He  too  was  panting,  but  furiously  busy,  ramming  home  a  charge 
in  a  musket  he  had  somehow  acquired. 

"Where  did"— began  Andrew,  staring  at  it,  dazedly. 

"Fool  with  a  cap,"  panted  Sebastian.  It  seemed  sufficient  ex- 
planation. "Look,"  he  said,  "Fire." 

Andrew  peeped  around  the  corner  of  the  building.  They  were 
still  much  nearer  the  guardhouse  than  he  had  supposed.  On  one 
hand  the  moon  lit  the  scene  with  precise,  bleak  radiance,  on  the 
other,  a  little  hut,  to  the  right  of  the  guardhouse,  was  burning 
like  a  spill  of  paper  with  fierce,  brief  flame. 

Mr.  Cave  and  his  men  had  taken  such  cover  as  storehouse  and 
trees  afforded.  He  could  see  them  swarming  in  the  shadows  like 
uneasy  flies.  On  the  lit  and  open  ground  between  them  and 
the  guardhouse  lay  a  number  of  broken  dolls  in  attitudes  of  dis- 
comfort. One  had  on  a  red  coat  and  lifted  up  an  arm  now,  to 
let  it  drop  again  as  if  it  were  too  heavy.  There  were  various 

Andrew  caught  his  breath.  Dr.  Gentian  could  not  have  more 
than  a  couple  of  men  with  him  in  the  guardhouse  now.  Mr.  Cave 
must  have  fifty  at  least.  Yet  Mr.  Cave  and  his  men  had  not  been 
able  to  cross  that  little  stretch  of  open,  moonlit  ground.  True, 
the  besieged  were  poorly  armed  and  the  besiegers  had  every  ad- 
vantage of  shelter,  but  even  so.  ... 

Even  as  he  watched,  a  dozen  men  dashed  out  from  cover, 
their  heads  down  as  if  they  were  running  into  a  rain,  and  made 
for  the  guardhouse  door.  They  carried  a  log  among  them— the 
intent  was  evident.  A  loophole  coughed  at  them  and  the  leading 
man  stumbled  and  fell  as  if  something  invisible  had  struck  him 
across  the  shins.  The  charge  wavered— a  second  man  sank  slowly 
to  his  knees,  like  a  tired  horse— the  others  broke,  dropping  the 


Spanish  Bayonet 

log— one  of  them  was  wringing  his  hand  and  putting  it  'to  his 
mouth,  like  a  boy  with  burnt  fingers.  Mr.  Cave  was  cursing. 

Something  tugged  at  Andrew's  sleeve.  uGive  me  one  of  your 
buttons,"  said  Sebastian's  voice  in  his  ear,  fierce  and  hurried. 
uThey  are  silver,  aren't  they— I  must  have  silver,  too— no,  a  little 
Andrew  wrenched  one  of  the  tarnished  buttons  loose  from  his 
coat  and  saw,  uncomprehendingly,  Sebastian  take  it,  drop  it  into 
the  narrow,  black  well  of  the  musket-barrel,  ram  it  down.  Then 
Sebastian  was  crouching  on  one  knee,  muttering  to  himself, 
musket  poised. 

Mr.  Cave  was  roaring  in  the  trees  like  a  bull,  trying  to  lift  his 
men  across  that  patch  of  open  ground.  But  they  would  not  be 
lifted,  they  stuck  where  they  were.  There  was  a  weight  on  their 
limbs,  the  invisible  weight  of  a  name,  it  pressed  them  to  the  earth. 
The  beasts  had  turned  on  the  beast-tamer,  but  they  were  still 
afraid  of  his  whip. 

Andrew  caught  a  second's  glimpse  of  Mr.  Cave,  as  he  darted 
from  one  shadow  to  another,  raging.  Sebastian  cursed  softly— 
the  glimpse  had  been  too  short  for  him  to  fire.  Now  they  heard 
a  shrill,  frightened  squealing,  and  the  thud  of  boots  kicking  flesh. 
Mr.  Cave  encouraging  his  followers.  Then  again,  for  an  instant, 
he  was  in  clear  view,  recklessly  exposed  against  the  glare  of  the 
burning  hut.  His  hands  were  cupped  to  his  mouth,  he  was  calling 

"Come  out,  you  damned  old  wizard!"  he  roared,  in  a  furious, 
weeping  voice.  "Come  out  and  surrender— your  life  if  you'll  sur- 
render!—if  you  don't,  by  God,  we'll  roast  you  there  in  your 

A  flash  answered  from  a  window  and  Mr.  Cave's  broad  hat 
spun  from  his  head  as  if  a  gust  of  wind  had  tweaked  it.  Dr.  Gen- 
tian's clear,  sharp  voice  called  back  something  in  Italian,  threat 
or  promise,  and  Andrew  could  see  the  besiegers  stir  uneasily 
in  the  darkness.  Then  four  things  happened,  almost  in  the  same 

A  man  with  a  bloody  face  and  a  naked  scythe  in  his  hand 
burst  out  of  a  clump  of  darkness,  followed  by  a  score  of  others, 
and  fell  upon  the  flank  of  Mr.  Cave's  forces.  The  clear,  sharp 
voice  cried  out  to  them  like  a  joyous  cock.  Mr.  Cave,  his  body 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

convulsed,  leapt  to  rally  his  men— and  the  musket  in  Sebastian's 
hands  exploded. 

It  was  a  long  shot,  and  at  first  Andrew  thought  that  it  had 
missed.  Then  he  saw  Mr.  Cave  hitch,  queerly,  in  his  stride,  get 
on  again,  and  then  collapse  slowly  into  the  ground,  as  if  quick- 
sand had  taken  him.  A  form  that  must  have  been  Sparta's,  for  it 
had  streaming  hair,  ran  out  of  an  eddy  of  conflict  and  fell  upon 
the  body  like  a  dog  on  a  grave. 

"The  wharves!"  called  the  clear,  sharp  voice,  weaker  now,  but 
still  very  joyous.  "Head  them  off  from  the  wharves,  you  Greeks- 
they're  making  for  the  wharves!" 

They  were  running  again.  There  was  clamor  and  a  flare  be- 
hind them,  where  men  hunted  other  men  in  the  moon-splashed 
darkness  like  terriers  chasing  rats  in  a  moonlit  barn.  Sebastian  was 
ahead  of  him— behind  there  were  many,  but  the  beaten  Italians 
were  throwing  their  weapons  away  and  calling  "Surrender- 
Surrender—"  in  high,  shrill  voices.  Andrew  threw  a  glance  over 
his  shoulder,  and  saw,  in  a  nightmare  flicker,  a  fellow  twenty 
yards  behind  him  stare  stupidly  at  a  point  of  steel  that  stuck 
abruptly  out  of  his  breast  and  fall,  tripping  the  man  who  had 
run  him  through  the  back.  Then  the  ground  under  Andrew's 
feet  rang  hollow  suddenly— the  wharf.  He  slipped  on  greasy 
wood— was  down  on  his  knees— up  again.  "Here,"  called  Caterina  s 
voice— he  caught  at  a  hand— leapt— sprawled  into  the  bottom  of 
a  rocking  boat. 

There  was  an  oar  somewhere— he  grabbed  at  it  and  began  to 
splash  with  it  furiously.  They  were  moving  away  from  the 
wharf  now,  but  the  damn  sail  wouldn't  catch  the  wind.  Row! 
The  boat  seemed  to  stick  in  the  water  like  a  bug  in  a  stream  of 
molasses  but  the  gap  between  it  and  the  wharf  was  widening— 
just  in  time,  for  there  was  shouting  behind  them  now.  He  stole 
a  glance  back.  There  was  the  man  with  the  bloody  face.  His 
left  arm  dangled  at  his  side  like  a  broken  stick.  He  was  yelling 
something  and  pointing.  There  was  a  ragged  spatter  of  sound 
—something  jumped  under  Andrew's  oar  like  a  frog  taking  water 
—he  heard  a  gasp  from  the  bow  of  the  boat.  "Flit,  Caterina?"  he 
called,  but  "No,  no,"  said  a  voice. 

Then  the  sail  filled  at  last,  and  the  wind  and  the  current  took 
them.  The  man  with  the  bloody  face  was  shouting  and  dancing 
up  and  down,  but  his  voice  was  fainter.  They  swept  around  a 


Spanish  Bayonet 

curve,  he  was  blotted  out.  There  was  nothing  left  of  New 
Sparta  but  a  confused,  diminishing  uproar  and  a  dying  redness  in 
the  sky. 

He  stopped  splashing  with  his  oar  and  put  it  down.  The  boat 
must  be  the  little  pleasure-boat  which  he  and  Sparta  had  used 
in  their  expeditions  for  turtle,  Andrew  noticed  now.  He  won- 
dered how  seaworthy  it  would  be  when  they  got  outside  the  bay. 

Another  thought  struck  him.  Carlos,  the  boy,  who  was  to 
have  been  with  them. 

"What  happened  to  Carlos?"  he  said. 

"At  the  last  moment,  he  was  afraid,"  said  Caterina,  calmly. 
"So  he  went  with  them." 

"With  who?" 

"With  the  other  Minorcans.  They  heard  they  were  to  be 
killed  tonight,  so  they  went  away." 

"Went  away!  In  God's  name,  how  could  they  go  away?" 

"The  soldiers  were  busy.  Mr.  Cave  had  been  to  them  and  told 
them  to  revolt,  but  they  did  not  trust  him.  So  the  old  people 
met  and  decided.  They  told  Mr.  Cave  they  would  be  ready 
tonight,  but  as  soon  as  it  was  night,  they  tied  up  their  overseers 
and  began  to  go  away,  one  by  one.  A  few  were  left,  to  deceive. 
The  Italians  did  not  stop  them,  they  thought  it  was  part  of  the 
plan.  When  they  found  out,  it  was  too  late.  Mr.  Cave  had  to 
choose  between  running  after  them  and  fighting  Dr.  Gentian." 

Andrew  gasped.  So  that  explained  Mr.  Cave's  grumbling. 
-Tricked,  by  God!" 

If  Dr.  Gentian  had  been  watchful  or  Mr.  Cave  loyal,  so  ap- 
pallingly obvious  a  plan  could  never  have  succeeded— but  the 
Doctor's  watchfulness  had  been  employed  solely  upon  Andrew 
and  Sebastian  and  Mr.  Cave's  treachery  had  wrecked  his  own 
scheme.  Add  to  this  the  firm  belief  in  the  animal  stupidity  of  the 
Minorcans  which  both  Cave  and  his  master  held  as  a  tenet  of 
faith,  and  the  thing  was  done.  After  years  of  rule,  men  grew 
careless,  forgetting  the  ruled  can  have  any  craft.  If  Mr.  Cave 
had  won,  he  would  doubtless  have  blamed  the  slaughter  of  Dr. 
Gentian  on  the  departed  Minorcans  and,  with  Sparta's  word  to 
back  him,  could  have  looted  the  plantation  as  he  pleased.  Andrew 
pondered  these  circumstances  in  his  mind. 

"Did  you  know  of  this,  Sebastian?"  he  said. 

"When  you  told  me  what  that  dead  man  planned,  I  thought 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

there  must  be  some  way  out  for  my  people.  I  told  Caterina  to 
tell  them  to  do  what  seemed  best  and  not  think  of  us— that  we 
would  rescue  ourselves. " 

The  fact  of  Mr.  Cave's  death  struck  Andrew  now  with  a  queer 
force— he  had  hardly  taken  it  in  before.  Mr.  Cave  would  never 
dabble  his  fingers  in  Sparta  Gentian's  hair  again  or  rave  im- 
potently  at  the  legitimate  world.  It  seemed  odd  to  think  of  that 
strong,  bulky  body  empty  of  violence— those  heavy  hands  no 
longer  able  to  afflict  or  destroy.  There  must  be  something  left 
—a  soul?— where  was  it?  He  saw  it  fluttering  in  the  wind  like  a 
burnt  rag,  maimed,  stupid,  defiant  and  alone.  "Poor  devil,"  he 
thought  for  a  moment— the  rag  fluttered  at  him  angrily— it  did 
not  want  pity— it  still  wanted  to  hurt  but  it  no  longer  had  the 
power— the  thought  made  him  a  little  sick.  .  .  . 

"Think  they'll  chase  us?"  he  said,  after  a  while. 

"Have  their  hands  full,"  said  Sebastian.  "Caterina  says  the 
Italians  were  going  to  pay  off  old  scores  and  fire  die  Greek  huts. 
If  they  did,  they'll  be  fighting  fire  all  the  rest  of  the  night." 

They  were  far  down  the  river  now,  the  breeze  had  freshened, 
the  current  ran  smooth  and  fast.  All  sound  but  the  sound  of 
water  and  wind  and  trees  had  died  away.  Andrew  trailed  his 
hand  over  the  side  and  drew  it  up,  dripping.  His  mind  was  quiet- 
ing gradually.  Already  the  furious  scene  in  which,  such  a  short 
time  ago,  he  had  taken  such  active  part  seemed  unreal  as  a  stage- 
play.  Yet  it  had  been  real.  He  had  passed  through  just  such  a 
painted  and  bedizened  adventure  as  he  had  always  envied  and 
wished  against  hope  might  be  his  own,  when  he  was  a  little  boy 
playing  under  a  table,  listening  to  the  ship-captains  and  soldiers 
tell  their  sparse,  enthralling  tales.  He  had  broken  a  prison— he 
had  killed  a  man— even  now  he  was  running  away  from  death 
in  a  leaky  pleasure-boat,  perhaps  to  be  wrecked  on  an  island  like 
Robinson  Crusoe's,  perhaps  merely  to  drown.  Yet  it  did  not  seem 
to  him  that  this  adventure  was  his,  as  the  adventure  in  the  tales 
had  been  his  while  he  listened  to  them. 

Now  he  knew  why  those  tales  had  been  so  sparse  and  crudely- 
fashioned.  When  you  were  living  a  tale  you  did  not  have  time 
to  color  it  as  it  should  be  colored— your  mind  stuck  on  odd 
useless  trifles— the  teeth  of  a  man  you  struck— the  feel  of  an  iron 
bar— the  shape  of  a  sail  against  the  stars.  Besides,  in  life,  you  were 
hungry  and  thirsty  and  had  to  make  water— things  which  did  not 


Spanish  Bayonet 

happen  in  a  tale,  or  if  they  did,  assumed  heroic  proportions.  He 
felt  betrayed,  somehow,  as  he  thought  of  this.  Even  he  should 
have  a  trace  at  least  of  attractive  venturesomeness  upon  him  now, 
but  if  it  were  there,  he  could  not  see  or  feel  it.  The  thought  of 
the  long,  baking  voyage  still  ahead  of  them  brought  no  flavor  of 
romance  with  it,  no  smell  of  strange  flowers.  It  would  be  hot 
and  irksome  and  dangerous,  and  he  would  be  very  glad  when 
it  was  done. 

Something  splashed  overside— -Caterina  was  bailing  the  boat.  He 
sighed  and  started  to  help  her.  After  a  while  she  stopped,  but 
he  went  on. 

"Tired,  Caterina?"  he  said,  in  a  pause. 

"No— yes—but  it  does  not  matter,"  she  said,  with  face  half 
turned.  She  shut  her  eyes  for  an  instant— the  moon  laid  a  silver 
penny  on  each  closed  lid.  He  stared  at  her  face.  Then  she 
started  to  bail  again,  and  the  slight  charm  was  broken. 

She  gave  a  little  sigh  after  a  moment.  "I  think  they  hit  me,  after 
all,"  she  said  in  a  commonplace  voice. 

He  crawled  over  to  her,  anguished  suddenly.  "Where  is  it?" 
he  said. 

"There— ah"— his  fingers  touched  something  sticky  and  warm. 
On  her  left  side  her  dress  was  soaked— blood  or  water?— he  could 
not  tell. 

"Do  you  hear,  Sebastian?  She's  hurt,"  he  said,  in  a  sharp,  angry 
voice.  The  dark  figure  at  the  tiller  moved  uneasily,  the  boat 
shifted,  spray  blew  in  Andrew's  face. 

"Is  it  deep,  Caterina?" 

"No,  no— only  a  flesh  wound— nothing— "  But  her  voice  seemed 
changed.  "Sec,  when  I  put  my  hand  on  it— it  stops  the  blood." 

Andrew  put  her  hand  aside,  gently.  He  started  to  tear  a  strip 
from  his  shirt  to  bandage  the  wound.  But  the  shirt  was  dirty  and 
hard  to  tear.  "Have  you  a  handkerchief— anything— Caterina?"  he 
asked  anxiously.  He  felt  in  the  darkness— she  was  wearing  a  scarf 
at  her  waist.  He  held  her  up  and  undid  it. 

"My  poor  scarf,"  she  said,  smiling.  Her  eyelids  fluttered  and 
closed  again— her  face  looked  more  content. 

He  bandaged  the  wound  as  best* he  could  with  the  scarf. 
"There,  is  that  better?" 

"Much,"  she  said,  and  sighed  lazily.  "Thank  you,  senor  Beard." 

"Don't  call  me  senor"  said  Andrew. 

Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

"I  won't  call  you  anything,"  she  said,  with  a  faint  laugh.  "I 
shall  go  to  sleep.  I  am  tired.  Wake  me  when  it  is  time  to  bafl 

He  helped  her  to  stretch  out  as  comfortably  as  possible  in  the 
bottom  of  the  boat,  pillowing  her  head  on  the  coat  from  which 
Sebastian  had  taken  the  button.  Then  he  crawled  back  aft  and 
crouched  there,  his  head  by  Sebastian's  knees.  They  were  out  in 
the  little  bay,  now,  the  moonlight  was  ghostly  on  its  white 
shelveNs  of  sand,  the  line  of  foam  on  the  beach  was  a  pale  thread 
spun  by  a  ghost  on  a  shuttle  of  pearl.  Presently  they  would  run 
past  the  headland  and  the  broad  sea  would  take  them. 

Sebastian  tested  the  wind.  "Good,"  he  muttered.  "Can  yom 
handle  her,  amigo,  after  we  get  out  of  this  bay?" 

"Uh,"  said  Andrew,  nearly  asleep.  Sebastian  laughed.  "I'll  wake 
you  when  you  have  to  take  her,"  he  said. 

Andrew  threw  back  his  head  and  looked  up  at  the  sky,  breath- 
ing deep.  The  moon  was  a  sailor's  lamp  now,  a  lamp  of  silver 
salt,  sea-crusted,  at  the  masthead  of  heaven.  The  stars  were  lights 
in  a  rigging.  As  he  lay  back  he  felt  not  only  the  movement  of  the 
boat,  but  a  larger,  vaguer  roll,  the  roll  of  earth  itself,  a  dark, 
huge  ark  plunging  forward  slowly  through  a  black-and-silver 
waste.  The  slow  way  of  that  tremendous  passage  shook  in  his  heart. 
He  felt  suddenly  very  happy  and  no  longer  dismayed  by  what 
might  be  in  store  for  them.  They  had  escaped,  they  were  free. 
Caterina  lay  sleeping  there  in  the  bow:  he  could  make  out  the 
huddle  of  her  shoulder.  In  the  morning  he  would  see  her  as  he 
had  never  seen  her,  familiar,  friendly,  with  no  mark  of  fear  or 
oppression  between  her  brows.  They  would  live  together  always, 
somehow,  Sebastian,  Caterina  and  he— and  gradually  the  stigmata 
of  the  stranger  would  depart  from  him  and  he  would  be  able  to 
read  the  runes  enciphered  in  the  ivory  box  of  her  heart. 

His  eyes,  however,  were  closing.  They  could  not  really  have 
closed,  for  it  did  not  seem  a  moment  before  Sebastian  nudged 
him  to  take  the  tiller  and  the  sheet.  Yet  they  stuck  when  he  tried 
to  open  them,  and  when  he  had  the  tiller  in  his  hand  at  last,  the 
bay  was  gone  and  the  boat  was  climbing  endless  hummocks  of 
black-and-silver  glass.  It  was  rougher  than  it  had  been  in  the  bay 
and  the  boat  seemed  diminished  and  apologetic  in  the  wide  face 
of  ocean,  but  it  settled  to  its  work  like  a  tired  and  patient  pony, 
and  after  a  few  moments  Andrew  felt  less  afraid  of  drowning 

Spanish  Bayonet 

them  all.  The  breeze  was  steady,  he  had  little  to  do  but  follow 
the  coastline  and  keep  from  going  to  sleep. 

Twice  he  shipped  unnecessary  water  and  once  just  averted 
jibing  disastrously  in  a  sudden  puff,  then  he  settled  back  into 
the  way  of  it  as  a  man  who  has  not  ridden  for  some  time  settles 
back  into  the  way  of  a  horse.  The  heavy  drowsiness  of  exhaus- 
tion no  longer  pawed  at  his  throat— the  black-and-silver  monot- 
ony, the  rushing  of  the  near  water,  lulled  him,  but  not  toward 
sleep,  rather  into  a  shining,  half-bodiless  wakeful  ness.  Fie  felt  that 
he  could  steer  forever,  through  an  endless,  fluid  universe  of  wet 
shadow  streaked  with  radiance  while  the  boat  answered  his  hand. 


The  sky  was  a  flight  of  gray  doves  touched  with  faint,  pink 
markings  like  the  markings  inside  a  seashell,  the  sea  was  a  heap 
of  rose-quartz  and  gray  stones,  the  light  that  came  seemed  to 
struggle  through  dew  and  roughened  glass.  It  was  the  illusory 
hour,  the  hour  just  before  dawn,  when  the  tide  of  the  blood  sets 
back  toward  life  again,  and  birds  ruffle  their  feathers,  and  a  light 
wind  rises  from  nowhere  to  run  across  the  tops  of  grass-blades, 
shaking  a  crystal  bauble,  whose  tiny  clapperless  bells  utter  only 
the  ghost  of  sound. 

Andrew,  heavy-eyed,  saw  the  boat  and  his  companions  solidify 
and  emerge  from  a  world  where  all  was  mist  and  water  of  light 
Sebastian  changed  from  a  heap  of  sacks  to  a  man  asleep— there 
was  a  little  fur  of  dew  on  his  garments.  Andrew  looked  down  at 
his  own  shirt— yes,  it  too  was  damp  and  the  tiller  beyond  his 
hand  was  beaded  at  the  edges.  Of  a  sudden  he  felt  very  cold  and 
shivered.  Well,  he  would  be  hot  enough  when  the  sun  was  up. 

He  stared  at  the  shore-line,  wondering  how  far  they  had  come. 
He  had  no  idea.  Wet  rocks  and  white  beach— a  palm-tree  like 
a  green  feather  duster  on  end— a  hedge  of  wild -Spanish  bayonet 
on  the  brow  of  a  cliff— it  might  be  anywhere  on  the  Florida  coast. 
He  felt  lost  and  alone  in  a  world,  except  for  him  and  the  sleepers 
in  the  boat,  so  completely  deserted  of  humanity  that  he  had  the 
odd  feeling  he  should  breathe  very  slowly  and  gently  or  the 
whole  misty  picture  of  land  and  sea  and  sky  would  rise  from 
around  them  in  a  sudden  thunder  of  wings,  like  a  flight  of  scared 
partridge,  and  leave  boat  and  cargo  swinging  in  a  sparkling,  meas- 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

ureless  void.  Now  a  gull  rose  squawking  from  between  two 
humps  of  water  and  he  took  odd  comfort  in  that  harsh  and  living 
sound.  The  universe  altered  slowly  from  gray  and  rose  as  he 
watched  the  gull,  the  colors  of  morning  deepened,  the  east  caught 
fire  from  a  burning  bush. 

The  day  would  be  hot  and  calm.  Already  the  wind  was  chang- 
ing and  dying  as  it  changed.  All  day  they  would  crawl  over 
flawed  sapphire  under  the  point  of  a  brazen  arrow.  He  must  wake 
the  others.  He  wondered  how  much  fresh  water  they  had  on 
board.  He  had  crept  in  too  near  the  coast— they  were  on  the 
edge  of  rocky  waters.  Wake  Sebastian,  yes. 

He  leaned  over  and  shook  Sebastian  by  the  shoulder.  "Wake 
up!"  he  said.  Sebastian  stirred  and  groaned.  Should  he  wake 
Caterina?  He  looked  over  at  her  \Uierc  she  lay  in  the  bow. 

Her  head  had  slipped  off  his  coat  in  the  night;  it  was  pillowed 
on  her  arm  now,  uncomfortably.  Her  other  arm  lay  lax— the 
hand  trailed  in  a  puddle  of  water.  He  rubbed  his  eyes— she  must 
be  very  tired  to  sleep  in  so  cramped  a  posture.  Then  he  saw 
that  the  red  color  in  the  puddle  was  not  the  reflection  of  the 
sun,  and  that,  if  she  were  sleeping,  she  slept  with  open  eyes. 

He  was  stumbling  over  to  her,  wildly,  across  Sebastian's  body. 
The  boat  yawed  violently  and  nearly  flung  him  overboard.  He 
heard  Sebastian  give  a  startled  shout.  Then  he  had  her  in  his 
arms  and  the  world  was  steady  again. 

"You're  not  dead,"  he  kept  saying  to  her.  "You  can't  be  dead/* 
His  hand  passed  over  her  forehead  a  dozen  times,  smoothing  it. 
He  felt  at  her  wrist,  at  her  heart,  there  was  nothing  to  feel  but 
flesh.  Her  fingers  were  cool,  but  it  was  the  insensate  coolness  of 
wax  and  stone.  The  blood  on  her  dress  was  drying  already— she 
must  have  bled  a  great  deal  for  all  the  water  around  her  was 

Still  holding  her,  he  stared  anxiously  down  at  her  face,  trying 
to  realize^  This  at  lease— death  could  not  have  come  in  horror  but 
only  as  a  slow  dissolving  tincture,  for,  though  there  was  no  smile 
upon  them,  her  features  were  composed.  She  looked  very  tired 
and  a  little  stern,  but  not  dead  as  he  thought  of  death.  There  was 
a  stain  on  her  mouth  where  she  had  bitten  her  lip:  he  wiped  it 
off  with  his  sleeve. 

No,  to  her  death  could  not  have  been  as  horrible  as  it  might 
have  been,  but  to  him  it  was  most  horrible  that  she  should  have 


Spanish  Bayonet 

died  so  quietly,  without  a  word.  Perhaps  she  had  meant  to  call 
out  and  had  been  too  weak— he  tried  to  remember  dizzily  if  he 
had  heard  a  sound  in  the  night— she  must  have  made  some  sort 
of  sound.  He  could  remember  nothing. 

He  looked  back.  Sebastian  was  staring  at  them  fixedly  from 
the  helm.  His  hand  lay  on  the  tiller  as  if  he  had  forgotten  it— 
a  little  muscle  twitched  in  his  cheek— his  eyes  were  fey.  Andrew 
thought,  oddly,  that  he  looked  much  as  a  man  looks  who  has  just 
got  a  sharp,  excruciating  blow  in  the  groin— his  mouth  had  the 
same  sick  stiffness. 

He  laid  Caterina  down.  Then,  bending  over  her,  he  looked 
ahead  and  felt  a  hoarse,  startled  cry  tear  out  of  his  throat. 
"Rocks!"  he  yelled.  "Sebastian!  We're  going  on  the  rocks!"  and 
fell  in  the  stained  water  in  the  bottom  of  the  boat  as  the  bAat 
jerked  and  the  sail  slatted  over.  There  was  a  firm  little  jar  be- 
neath him  like  a  sharp  push  from  a  heavy  hand— a  ripping  sound 
—then  catastrophe  had  passed,  and  they  were  going  on  again. 

"Get  out  farther— from  coast—"  he  said  weakly,  scrambling  up. 
He  looked  back.  Another  moment  and  they  would  have  struck 
that  jagged  line  of  black  stumps  full  on.  As  it  was  they  had  just 
scraped  across  the  edge  where  the  water  simmered  uneasily  like  a 
bubbling  pot.  They  had  just  escaped. 

His  feet  were  wetter  tnan  they  had  been.  He  stared  down.  A 
little  spring  of  water  was  pumping  up  in  the  bottom,  diluting  the 
bloody  puddles  with  fresh  clear  green.  That  slight  firm  push  had 
been  enough  to  ruin  them.  The  boat  was  filling. 

"Have  to  beach  her,  Sebas',"  he  said  in  a  lifeless  voice.  "We're 

Sebastian  did  not  seem  to  hear:  he  was  still  staring  ahead,  with 
those  blind,  busy  eyes,  as  if  he  were  intent  on  counting  every 
wyave  in  the  sea. 

"Christ,"  said  Andrew,  flatly,  and  went  back  to  shake  him  alive. 

They  beached  the  boat  just  in  time.  Twenty  yards  more  to  go 
or  a  rougher  sea  and  they  could  not  have  done  it.  As  it  was, 
when  a  slow,  huge  roller  took  her  at  last  and  sludged  her  nose 
in  the  sand,  she  hesitated  in  its  grip  like  a  flogged,  unwieldy  mare, 
and  the  sea  nearly  took  her  and  Caterina  back  again  before  they 
could  haul  up  into  safety.  When  they  had  done  so,  they  lifted 
out  Caterina's  body  between  them  and  carried  it  up  on  the  beach. 

They  had  landed  in  a  little  cove.  The  sand  was  very  clean  and 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

white— their  footsteps  dinted  it  sharply.  It  was  morning  now— 
the  dew  had  vanished— the  world  was  a  glittering  toy  of  silver  and 
blue  enamel. 

"We  must  bury  her/'  said  Sebastian  dully.  "We  cannot  take 
her  with  us  to  consecrated  ground."  The  muscle  throbbed  in  his 
cheek.  It  was  the  first  time  he  had  spoken. 

"I  wish  there  were  a  priest,"  he  said,  looking  about.  "We  must 
put  up  a  cross."  His  mouth  jerked. 

Andrew  followed  his  glance.  There  were  other  marks  on  the 
sand  beside  the  marks  of  their  footsteps  and  those  of  the  gulls. 
A  long  slouching  track  crossed  the  beach  and  broke  off  at  the 
edge  of  the  rocks,  the  pawprints  indented  freshly  like  the  marks 
of  a  devil's  signet-ring. 

"We  can't  just  bury  her  and  leave  her,"  he  said,  with  a  shudder. 
He  stared  at  the  tracks.  In  the  darkness  something  came  down 
from  the  woods  and  pawed  at  a  new  mound. 

He  turned  to  his  friend. 

"Help  me  get  some  wood,  Sebastian,"  he  said,  with  a  sob. 
"They  can't  hurt  her  if  we  burn  her." 

They  toiled  all  morning,  making  the  pyre.  There  was  drift- 
wood scattered  on  the  beach  and,  up  a  little  gully,  they  came 
upon  the  dry,  tindery  carcass  of  a  dead  tree.  At  last,  toward 
afternoon,  they  had  enough  and  sat  down  to  rest  for  a  while  and 
to  try  to  eat.  The  hard  bread  and  boucanned  meat  with  which 
the  boat  had  been  provisioned  was  soaked  and  dirty,  the  water 
in  the  keg  brackish  and  warm,  but  neither  of  them  noted  these 
things.  Andrew  heard  the  tinkle  of  running  water,  somewhere  up 
in  the  woods.  "Stream,  Sebastian,"  he  said,  but  he  was  too  tired  to 
go  and  look  for  it.  He  brushed  the  crumbs  from  his  knees  and 
rose.  "Come  along,"  he  said. 

The  pyre  was  a  tangled  heap  of  wood— broken  jackstraws  clut- 
tered together.  They  covered  it  with  the  sail,  smoothing  it  out 
clumsily.  Then  they  laid  Caterina  upon  it.  Sebastian  had  closed 
her  eyes  and  her  dress  was  as  much  in  order  as  they  could  man- 
age. Now  Sebastian  crossed  her  hands  on  her  breast  and,  taking 
a  little  brass  medal  from  a  string  about  his  neck,  put  it  between 
them.  "I  should  not  have  prayed  for  vengeance,"  he  muttered,  his 
mouth  shaking.  Then  he  got  down. 

They  both  stood  for  a  moment,  gazing.  She  lay  reclined  on  the 
sail  in  a  posture  of  stiff  ease— she  looked  smaller  than  he  remem- 


Spanish  Bayonet 

bered  her,  but  neither  pitiful  nor  strange.  Andrew  thought  of  the 
first  time  he  had  seen  her,  a  barbarous  saint,  walking  through  the 
deep  coils  of  night  with  a  candle  in  her  hand.  She  had  seemed 
removed  enough  then,  now  she  was  forever  removed.  The  fingers 
had  been  cool,  the  alien  heart  had  carried  a  treasure  secretly, 
wrapped  in  a  gleaming  cloth.  Now  the  secret  and  she  were  air, 
he  could  follow  them  no  longer,  the  treasure  was  lost,  the  runner 
in  chains  had  shaken  off  the  burden.  What  had  been  the  mystery 
in  the  blood,  so  jealously  guarded— the  writing  behind  the  eyes? 
Had  she  loved  him,  had  she  loved  Sebastian,  had  she  loved  any 
man  on  earth?  It  did  not  matter  now,  she  had  taken  her  knowl- 
edge with  her,  clutched  between  stiff  fingers,  like  a  relic  re- 
turned to  its  saint,  secure  alike  from  worshippers  and  blasphemers. 
It  was  gone,  now,  and  writh  it  had  gone  the  youthful  part  of  his 

He  wished,  idly,  that  he  had  not  torn  her  scarf,  the  night  be- 
fore, to  bandage  her  wound.  She  had  not  liked  his  tearing  her 

"Wait,"  he  said,  as  Sebastian  bent  to  strike  the  flint  on  the 
steel.  He  looked  about  desperately—there  must  be  something  else 
—something  he  could  give.  His  glance  fell  on  a  bush  of  green 
spikes  near  the  foot  of  the  cliff.  The  Spanish  bayonet  was  just 
coming  into  flower  again,  as  he  had  seen  it  in  flower,  in  Judge 
Willo's  garden.  He  ran  ploddingly  over  to  the  bush  and  thrust 
his  hand  among  the  thorns.  His  arm  was  bleeding  from  a  dozen 
scratches  when  he  pulled  it  out,  but  he  had  the  flower.  It  had 
not  yet  come  to  full  bloom,  but  it  was  enough. 

He  laid  the  white  stalk  on  her  breast— it  rested  there  like  an 
order  bestowed  by  the  Moon.  He  touched  her  fingers  an  instant. 
Then  he  crouched  down  at  Sebastian's  feet  to  blow  the  tinder  into 

The  sparks  hung  for  a  moment  and  caught,  the  tinder  started 
to  burn.  They  fed  the  flame  carefully,  with  small  pieces,,  till  it 
grew  strong,  then  they  stood  aside.  The  bottom  logs  begun  to 
crackle,  a  little  at  first,  then  more.  The  driftwood  burned  eerily 
with  ghosts  of  blues  and  greens,  strange  as  the  colors  of  an  en- 
chanter's rose;  as  it  mounted,  the  flame  grew  purer. 

Soon  the  whole  pyre  was  well  alight.  The  tiny  cracklings 
blended  into  a  fiercer,  deeper  utterance,  strangely  petulant  in 
that  quietude  where  the  only  other  sound  was  the  slow  crash 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

of  a  single,  heavy  breaker  on  the  sand,  repeated  at  even  intervals 
like  the  firing  or  minute-guns  for  the  burial  of  a  mermaid  queen 
in  a  tomb  of  coral  and  weed.  Above  the  pyre  the  heat  began  to 
tremble  in  the  still  air  like  threads  of  isinglass.  They  could  not 
have  quenched  the  fire  now  if  they  had  wished— it  had  become  a 
furnace—the  petulant  mutter  settled  to  a  harsh,  husky  roar.  Now 
the  overlapping  edge  of  the  sail  felt  the  pure  aspiration  of  the 
flame— a  wrisp  of  smoke  blew  across  Caterina's  face— a  running 
creeper  of  fire  sprang  up  and  crouched  at  her  feet. 

Andrew  turned  away.  Sebastian  was  lying  face  down  in  the 
sand,  his  arms  out,  his  body  in  the  shape  of  a  cross.  He  was 
silent,  but  now  and  then  a  convulsive  shudder  rippled  the  muscles 
of  his  back  and  broke. 

Andrew  looked  blindly  at  the  palm  of  his  own  hand,  sur- 
prised to  find  it  unscorched,  undefaccd  by  fire.  Fie  would  not 
look  at  the  pyre  again,  to  see  that  body  altered  and  the  last 
revenge  of  flesh  on  spirit.  So  he  looked  once,  hastily,  but  saw 
nothing  but  flame  and  smoke.  Through  the  rest  of  his  life,  he 
thought,  in  stupor  of  mind,  he  would  go  his  ways  like  a  man 
caught  up  alive  out  of  hell,  with  the  rustle  of  fire  always  in  his 
ears  and  the  thin,  acrid  reek  of  it  clung  to  his  flesh. 

They  had  to  feed  the  fire  once,  when  it  slackened,  but  by 
then  they  were  numb  and  went  about  the  task  like  sleepers. 

It  was  over  at  last.  The  pyre  had  sunk  to  a  bed  of  ashes  and 
sparks.  There  were  charred  things  lying  there,  but  they  did  not 
gather  them  up.  What  little  wind  there  was  had  scattered  some  of 
the  ashes,  they  could  not  tell  which  were  hers.  They  heaped 
stones  in  a  rough  sort  of  cairn  over  the  place  and  covered  the 
stones  with  sand.  Soon  the  mound  looked  as  if  it  had  always  been 
there.  At  the  top  of  the  finished  mound,  Sebastian  put  a  badly- 
fashioned  cross— two  pieces  of  wood  lashed  together  with  rope. 
Andrew  looked  at  it,  thinking  the  next  gale  would  blow  it  down. 

He  had  intended  to  cut  a  name  on  the  cross,  but  the  only 
knife  they  had  was  dull,  and  now  there  was  no  time. 

He  tried  to  recollect  what  he  could  of  the  burial  service  they 
rend  in  Trinity  Church,  in  the  brown  gloom,  under  the  puffy 
busts  of  gilded  angels.  "I  am  the  resurrection  and  the  life,''  he 
nmttered,  but  the  remembered  syrup  of  the  minister's  voice 
spoiled  the  words.  Besides,  any  words  seemed  an  affront  to  the 
bleak  impermanence  of  that  heap  of  sand  and  stones. 


Spanish  Bayonet 

The  sun  was  low  in  the  sky— his  shadow  on  the  sand  was  long 
and  black.  They  could  not  have  mended  the  boat  without  tools 
and  they  had  no  tools  but  a  musket  and  a  dull  knife.  They  would 
have  to  go  on.  They  would  have  to  try  and  find  the  road. 

"We'd  better  get  on,"  he  murmured,  lifting  from  the  ground 
the  little  pack  of  bread  and  dried  meat  he  had  tied  up  in  his  coat. 

They  had  known  before  what  it  was  to  go  on  when  they  stood 
at  the  end  of  resource,  now  they  were  to  know  what  it  was  to  go 
on  beyond  that  end.  There  were  two  courses  open  to  them— to 
plunge  into  the  woods  at  a  venture,  hoping  to  strike  the  road  and 
the  Minorcans— or  to  attempt  to  reach  St.  Augustine  by  the 
beaches,  alone.  They  would  make  better  time  at  first,  along  the 
beach,  but  at  the  end  of  the  cove  a  headland  jutted  out  into 
rocks  and  they  would  have  to  swim  for  it.  They  chose  the  woods, 
staking  what  was  left  them  on  finding  the  road  in  the  few  hours 
of  daylight  that  remained. 

At  first,  it  was  easy.  At  the  top  of  the  gully  they  climbed 
was  a  long  open  glade,  full  of  lush,  deep  grass.  But  at  the  end 
of  the  glade  the  underbrush  began.  They  tried  to  keep  a  straight 
course  by  picking  one  tree  out  of  the  many  to  guide  them,  but, 
as  they  had  to  fight  their  way  through  the  underbrush,  their 
guidepost-tree  would  mix  with  other  trees,  and  though  they 
would  imagine  they  had  found  the  right  one  again,  they  could 
not  be  sure.  Their  tree  had  had  a  lightning-blaze  on  its  left  side 
—this  one  was  blazed  there  too,  but  the  blaze  seemed  a  different 

Twilight  came  and  with  it  the  fear  of  the  woods,  the  fear  of 
going  around  and  around  the  circle  of  a  tethered  horse  till  at 
last  something  cracked  in  the  mind  as  they  stumbled  again  upon 
the  deep-trodden  track  they  had  made  before,  and  they  began 
to  strike  at  the  trees  with  their  hands.  The  light  faded  inexorably, 
night  crept  between  the  trees,  soft-footed,  dark-eyed.  "Mustn't 
run,"  said  Andrew  to  himself,  plodding  ahead  through  a  confu- 
sion of  shadows. 

There  was  a  dry  stirring  in  the  bushes  at  his  right— a  sound 
half-yawn,  half-hiss,  like  the  hiss  of  an  angry  cat.  He  froze.  In 
his  mind  he  could  feel  the  blunt,  cool,  deadly  head  of  a  moccasin 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

against  his  thigh.  Indians,  too,— he  remembered  the  Indian  he  had 
seen  peer  out  of  a  bush  and  vanish.  "Mustn't  run,"  he  repeated  to 
himself  with  a  gulp.  It  was  very  dark  now.  When  he  got  back 
in  a  house,  he  would  never  let  it  be  dark.  He  would  sleep  with  a 
dozen  candles  flaring  in  his  room  and  buy  a  slave  to  keep  them 
tended  all  through  the  night.  A  bough  stung  his  cheek.  "Mustn't 
run,"  but,  insensibly,  he  Knew  his  pace  had  increased. 

He  plunged  through  a  little  thicket  that  seemed  full  of  fish- 
hooks and  came  out  upon  an  open  space.  Where  was  Sebastian? 
He  couldn't  hear  Sebastian  behind  him  any  more.  He  stood 
trembling  on  the  edge  of  the  clearing  like  a  beaten  hound.  He 
did  not  dare  call  to  Sebastian— there  might  be  no  answer.  If  there 
were  no  answer,  he  would  go  quite  mad. 

"Mustn't  run,"  he  advised  himself  for  the  last  time,  and  then, 
tearing  the  pack  from  his  shoulders  with  a  jerk,  began  to  run 
blindly  across  the  clearing  on  drunken  feet,  moaning  to  himself 
as  he  ran.  Things  struck  at  him  with  springy  clubs,  but  he  kept 
on,  thrashing  his  arms  against  them  like  a  drowning  man.  Then 
at  last  the  ground  itself  betrayed  him  and  gave  way  beneath  him, 
and  he  was  rolling  into  a  hidden  pit  where  Fear  and  Night  lay 
crouched  like  twin  spiders,  ready  to  swathe  him  in  suffocating, 
innumerable  folds  of  glutinous,  dark  silk  the  moment  he  touched 

His  next  conscious  memory  was  of  a  dark,  concerned  face, 
grinning  down  at  him  through  a  red  shadow.  "Ami go"  said  the 
face.  "Amigo.  Que  tal,  senor?"  He  grinned  back  at  the  face.  It 
was  Carlos,  the  boy  he  had  given  a  Spanish  dollar,  years  ago. 
He  sat  up,  feeling  his  head  spin.  "Where's  Sebastian?"  he  said. 

"Sebastian!"  called  the  boy,  joyously,  "Sebastian!"  and  now 
Sebastian  came  running  out  of  the  red  shadow  with  a  wooden 
bowl  in  his  hand.  He  set  the  bowl  down,  and  dropping  beside 
Andrew,  kissed  him  solemnly  and  smackingly  on  both  cheeks, 
while  Carlos  clucked  his  approval.  For  a  nervous  moment  Andrew 
thought  Carlos  was  going  to  kiss  him,  too,  but  he  did  not.  He 
trotted  back  toward  the  campfire  that  made  the  red  shadow,  call- 
ing something  as  he  went.  Then  Sebastian  had  picked  up  the 
wooden  bowl  and  was  feeding  Andrew  hot,  tasty  bits  of  pepper- 
stew  with  his  fingers. 

Their  luck  had  turned  at  last.  The  Minorcans  had  heard  him 
shouting  in  the  woods,  and  thinking  one  of  their  stragglers  had 


Spanish  Bayonet 

lost  his  way,  had  sent  out  a  party  which  came  upon  him  as  he 
rolled  into  the  road  like  a  shot  rabbit.  He  had  missed  Sebastian 
because  Sebastian,  a  little  behind  him,  had  seen  firelight  through 
the  trees  and  had  stopped  to  make  sure.  Then  Sebastian  had  called 
to  him,  but  his  ears  had  been  too  full  of  his  own  terror  to  hear 
the  call. 

Revived  by  the  stew,  he  listened  eagerly  to  the  news  from 
New  Sparta.  A  house-boy  who  had  been  unable  to  get  away  with 
the  main  body  of  the  Minorcans  had  caught  them  up  toward 
evening  on  a  stolen  horse.  Of  the  post  of  eight  soldiers,  only 
the  lugubrious  corporal  and  a  badly-wounded  private  remained. 
Dr.  Gentian  had  been  hurt  in  the  fight  but  was  alive,  and  Mrs. 
Gentian  and  the  sub-overseers  now  ruled  the  wreck  of  the  planta- 
tion. It  was  she  who  had  checkmated  Cave  with  a  handful  of  her 
favorite  Greeks— at  the  last  moment  there  had  been  jealousy  be- 
tween the  Greek  and  Italian  sides  of  Cave's  forces  and  the  Greeks 
had  finally  decided  to  betray  the  revolt,  just  in  time  to  save  Dr. 
Gentian's  life. 

The  Italians— what  was  left  of  them— were  cowed.  Some  of 
them  had  managed  to  get  hold  of  the  sloop  and  take  it  half- 
way down  the  inlet,  but  there,  having  no  sailors  among  them, 
they  had  stranded  and  decided  to  throw  themselves  on  Mrs.  Gen- 
tian's mercy.  The  colony  was  still  unsettled  and  apprehensive, 
but  Mrs.  Gentian  was  definitely  in  the  saddle  and  she  rode  with 
a  tight  rein.  The  man  did  not  know  what  policy  she  intended  to 
adopt  towards  the  Minorcans— three  messengers  at  least  had  rid- 
den for  St.  Augustine,  but  two  of  them  had  already  fallen  into 
the  Minorcans'  hands,  not  unwillingly— and  she  could  not  afford 
to  send  many  more. 

Andrew  asked  for  the  other  news,  hesitatingly.  About  Miss 
Gentian  he  did  not  know— she  was  nursing  her  father,  he  thought. 
The  words  offered  Andrew  an  incredible  picture.  He  saw  Dr. 
Gentian  nightcapped,  in  a  curtained  bed,  taking  a  cup  from 
Sparta  with  a  weak  hand.  They  were  looking  at  each  other  with 
blank,  acquiescent  eyes.  That  the  cup  contained  more  than 
beverage  seemed  improbable.  Both  understood,  both  hated,  but 
both  were  under  the  whip,  for  the  tall  woman  with  the  proud 
nose  and  the  secret  mouth  had  come  to  her  kingdom  at  last  and 
bound  them  equally,  without  compunction  or  passion.  While  she 
lived,  they  would  live  as  she  willed,  now.  They  had  the  strength 

Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

of  beauty  and  violence  and  wit,  but  she  had  the  strength  of 
silence,  and  her  strength  engulfed  theirs,  as  the  well  of  darkness 
under  the  world  engulfs  its  fallen  stars. 

He  could  see  them  living  together  for  years— a  devoted  family 
—a  pair  of  serpents  under  an  iron  bar,  not  daring  to  strike  each 
other  because  the  bar  was  mute  and  cold,  and  they  could  not 
tell  what  it  would  do  if  they  struck.  Some  day  Sparta,  no  doubt, 
would  marry—her  mother's  man,  this  time.  To  the  world  they 
would  present  a  united  front.  They  would  carry  it  off— oh,  yes, 
—he  trusted  them  for  that. 

He  shuddered  a  little,  seeing  them  all  at  table  together,  a  year, 
five  years  from  now.  A  curly-haired  young  man,  dressed  in  the 
extreme  of  frippery,  with  a  face  as  bland  and  foolish  as  a  face 
painted  on  an  egg,  sat  at  Sparta's  left,  making  tabletalk  to  his  new 
relations.  Poor  rabbit,  thought  Andrew,  and  smiled.  The  last 
shreds  of  youth's  dearest  delusion,  the  delusion  that  life  will 
come  to  a  climax  of  thunder  and  cease,  fell  from  him  silently. 
Only  by  accident  was  life  as  neat  a  workman  as  that.  The  climax 
might  come  a  dozen  times,  but  after  each  climax  the  workman 
would  go  on,  like  an  idiot  building  a  castle,  adding  story  upon 
story  to  what  was  already  complete. 

His  own  life,  by  all  canons  of  art  and  taste,  should  have  fin- 
ished when  the  last  sand  fell  upon  the  mound  on  the  beach  they 
had  left  behind.  Instead,  here  he  was,  eating  pepper-stew,  and 
relishing  it,  on  the  whole.  If  there  were  any  moral  inherent  in 
the  course  of  events  which  had  happened  to  him,  he  had  yet  to 
descry  it.  But  for  accident  he  would  be  lying  in  the  prison  ditch 
with  lead  in  his  lungs,  and  Mr.  Cave  would  be  alive  and  roaring. 
Was  he  any  better  off  as  it  was  and  Mr.  Cave  any  worse?— he 
did  not  know.  He  felt  that  he  was  fast  becoming  a  pagan  and  it 
hurt  his  sense  of  the  fitness  of  things.  Then  the  Scotch  strain  in 
him,  that  drop  which  with  the  Jewish  drop  and  the  Irish,  can 
survive  a  dozen  admixtures  of  blood  to  dominate  a  mind,  reas- 
serted itself  and  told  him  grimly  that  it  was  not  his  business  to 
question  the  schemes  of  God,  but  to  hold  on  dourly  to  a  pre- 
destined path  between  damnation  and  damnation,  and  distrust 
the  vain  speculations  of  the  Egyptians.  He  could  not  quite  be- 
lieve its  voice— would  it  call  Caterina  a  vain  Egyptian,  he  won 
dered— but  it  sufficed  to  send  him  off  to  sleep  as  soundly  as  if  he 
were  hearing  John  Knox  preach. 


Spanish  Bayonet 

The  camp  broke  up  before  dawn.  The  women  gathered  up 
their  babies  and  their  cooking  pots— the  head  of  the  column 
straggled  out  in  the  road— the  dust  began  to  rise— the  day's  march 
was  on.  Andrew  watched  perhaps  a  quarter  of  the  column  pass, 
spectral  in  the  early  light,  with  a  sense  of  dream,  before  he  fell  in 
the  ranks  at  Sebastian's  side.  He  had  always  liked  the  Minorcans, 
but  his  ruling  impression  of  them  had  been  one  of  gravity;  he 
was  amazed  to  see  how  lightly  they  seemed  to  take  this  wild 
expedition.  They  had  left  the  promised  land  they  had  labored 
on  for  five  years  behind  them  and  with  it  the  greater  part  of  their 
few  possessions.  They  were  marching  to  an  unknown  future, 
perhaps  to  prison  or  death,  but  the  general  mood  seemed  that  of 
children  on  a  holiday,  and  ahead  some  boy  was  strumming  a 
cracked  guitar. 

A  child  ran  out  of  the  ranks  to  pick  a  flower,  was  brought  back 
howling,  and  given  a  slap  and  a  sweetmeat.  A  mysterious  Spanish 
joke  on  a  plump  young  man  was  passed  from  rank  to  rank  with 
an  accompaniment  of  laughter  and  pointing  fingers.  Andrew 
could  see  the  back  of  the  neck  of  the  young  man  in  question, 
redden  under  its  tan— then  he  turned  to  fling  back  a  snorting 
expletive  over  his  shoulder  and  the  laughter  grew  ecstatic.  One 
waddling  matron  frankly  sat  down  in  the  middle  of  the  road 
to  laugh  her  fill  and  was  promptly  surrounded  by  a  circle  of 
arguing,  encouraging  relations.  A  girl  and  a  boy  had  their  hand.*, 
locked  together  as  they  marched,  and  the  ranks  around  them 
turned  into  one  vast  admiring  family  that  tickled  them  with 
solemn  or  ribald  advice,  to  which  they  paid  not  the  slightest 
attention.  A  grave,  white-bearded  elder  carried  a  trussed  live 
chicken  under  his  arm— it  squawked  incessantly  and  pecked  at 
his  sleeve. 

They  had  few  arms  and  scant  provender— most  of  the  men 
had  no  better  weapons  than  clubs  or  rude  wooden  pikes.  Sebas- 
tian was  a  person  of  great  importance  since  he  carried  a  musket. 
An  Indian  attack  in  force  would  mean  massacre,  a  journey  too 
long  drawn  out  the  hunger  pinch,  but  they  seemed  to  have  con- 
sidered these  things  and  put  them  aside.  Now  Andrew  began  to 
understand  the  quality  in  them  that  had  taken  them  across  an 
ocean  to  live  in  a  strange  land  for  five  years  under  a  rod  without 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

losing  heart.  There  was  a  hardness  hidden  somewhere  under  their 
grace  that  called  up  all  the  Scot  in  him  to  answer  it  and  he 
found  himself  whistling  "The  Bonny  House  of  Airlie"  as  he 
trudged  along  in  the  dust. 

Grief,  autumnal  color  of  the  stained  and  fugitive  wood,  sad 
vesture  of  red  and  gold,  severe  counsellor,  true  companion— 
your  hands  touch  at  the  heart  as  lightly  and  idly  as  a  child's 
and  leave  it  shaken,  then  like  a  child  you  depart,  on  light  feet, 
idly.  Honest  playfellow,  candid  guest,  your  company  is  strict,  but 
for  young  men,  brief;  no  matter  how  straitly  the  spirit  would 
detain  you,  mind  and  body  and  time  are  too  strong  to  endure  for 
longer  than  a  terse  and  appointed  term  so  reticent  a  visitant.  The 
earth  stirs  in  its  mail  of  frost,  the  geese  begin  to  fly  North  again, 
the  fire  dies  in  the  chimney,  it  is  time  for  you  to  go.  The  wind 
will  blow  over  the  field  but  your  voice  will  be  in  it  no  longer, 
the  rain  fall  from  the  sky  in  showers,  no  longer  austere  with  the 
echo  of  your  sober  bells.  Now  only  the  old,  discarded  traveller  in 
the  hearth-corner  keeps  your  shadow  alive  in  his  breast,  stretch- 
ing out  cold,  knotted  fingers  before  a  diminishing  flame. 

That  even  the  deepest  sorrow  can  be  transient  was,  however, 
a  fact  which  Andrew,  like  most  people,  had  to  learn  for  himself. 
At  first  Catcrina  haunted  the  march  for  him,  sleeping  or  waking, 
but  even  twenty-four  hours  made  a  little  difference,  not  in  the 
honesty  of  his  grief  but  in  its  power  to  obliterate  the  rest  of  the 
universe.  Certain  things  must  be  done,  certain  motions  gone 
through.  The  constant  activity  of  body,  the  uncertain  imminence 
of  danger,  left  no  time  for  that  luxurious  melancholy  which  feeds 
upon  a  full  stomach  and  an  empty  mind.  Enforcedly,  he  began 
to  live  in  the  world  again— the  resurrection  was  painful  and 
gradual  enough  but,  once  begun,  it  continued  implacably. 


Four  days  later,  the  picture  on  the  highway  had  changed  some- 
what in  details  but  not  in  the  whole.  The  same  slow  stream  of 
humanity  clotted  the  road,  taking  it  easy  to  all  appearances,  yet 
stirring  the  dust  relentlessly  with  passing  feet.  A  child  had  died, 


Spanish  Bayonet 

another  child  had  been  born.  The  dead  lay  buried  by  the  road- 
side, four  men  carried  the  new  mother  and  her  charge  on  an 
improvised  litter  toward  the  rear  of  the  column.  Tomorrow,  or 
the  next  day,  she  would  be  back  in  the  ranks  again.  The  talk  was 
less  continual,  faces  showed  fatigue,  feet  went  limping.  But 
what  talk  there  was  seemed  cheerful,  and  those  who  fell  behind 
for  a  while  straggled  back  into  line  eventually,  some  stronger 
impulse  than  fear  urging  them  on. 

Andrew  and  Sebastian  were  at  the  head  of  the  column  when 
they  sighted  the  cavalry-patrol. 

It  was  a  small  force,  some  twenty  men  in  all,  commanded  by 
a  tall,  leathery  captain  with  a  London  drawl,  who  kept  blowing 
his  nose  on  a  lace  handkerchief  because  of  the  dust  and  then 
looking  around  savagely  at  his  men  to  try  and  catch  a  smile  on 
their  faces.  He  commenced  to  shout  at  the  Minorcans  in  abom- 
inable Spanish  when  they  were  yet  some  distance  away,  and 
though  both  Sebastian  and  Andrew  called  back  in  English,  it 
seemed  to  make  no  impression  on  his  mind  for  a  long  time. 

"Damn  my  boots,  what  a  precious  lot  of  ragamuffins! "  Andrew 
could  hear  him  saying  to  himself  as  they  approached.  "You  can't 
talk  their  lingo,  can  you,  sergeant?  I  thought  not— a  pretty  affair, 
damn  my  boots,  to  send  a  gentleman  with  his  Majesty's  com- 
mission to  shepherd  a  pack  of  mutinous  blackguards  into  town. 
If  the  Governor  were  of  my  mind,  he'd  shoot  down  every  last 
man  jack  of  them  in  the  ditch  of  the  fort,  by  pox  and  thunder 
—don't  you  think  so,  sergeant?  Hey,  you  there,  the  man  with  the 
dirty  shirt—"  he  called  suddenly  as  Andrew  came  nearer,  "can 
you  talk  English?  Damn  my  boots  he's  staring  at  me  like  a 
codfish— why  don't  you  salute  an  officer,  man?  Stap  me,  the 
creature  stinks  in  the  wind  like  Billingsgate  fish-market!  Talk 
English,  fellow!  Parlay  English,  Anglish— yes— no?"  he  howled 
abruptly  at  Andrew  from  a  distance  of  five  paces,  as  if  Andrew, 
being  a  foreigner,  must  be  stone-deaf. 

It  did  not  surprise  Andrew  to  be  taken  for  one  of  the  Minorcans. 
With  a  ten  days'  beard  on  his  face  and  his  skin  burned  by  the 
sun,  he  could  have  passed  for  a  scavenger.  He  was  only  surprised 
when  the  captain,  after  a  few  interchanges,  grew  fairly  civil  on 
the  whole.  He  was  like  other  English  officers  Andrew  had  known, 
apparently  in  a  continual  sweat  of  puzzled  exasperation  when- 
ever he  had  a  task  to  accomplish,  and  yet  somehow  getting  the 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

task  done  with  a  certain  slack  efficiency  that  seemed  to  surprise 
himself.  His  bloodthirstiness  was  entirely  a  matter  of  conversa- 
tion. Andrew  saw  him  later  in  the  day  with  a  fat  Minorcan 
two-year-old  on  the  saddle  before  him  and  an  expression  of 
weary  fury  on  his  face,  muttering  savagely,  "Damn  my  boots, 
you  think  you're  a  fine  whelp,  don't  you—a  fine  little  piece  of 
mutiny  to  boil  for  officers'  soup— how  he  claws  at  me,  damme 
sergeant!  I  think  I'd  better  drop  him  in  the  road  and  break  his 
head."  But  his  arm  was  tightly  clutched  around  the  child,  and 
the  child  was  squeaking  delightedly  as  it  pulled  at  the  horse's 

Andrew  made  himself  as  inconspicuous  as  possible  during  the 
rest  of  the  march  and  did  not  attempt  to  interview  the  captain 
till  it  was  ended.  A  year  ago  he  would  have  done  so  at  once, 
without  thinking  how  strange  his  important  talk  of  the  house  of 
Alexander  Beard  and  Son  would  sound  on  the  lips  of  a  dirty, 
unshaven  boy.  Now  he  knew  his  cue  was  self-effacement  till  he 
could  get  to  the  Governor.  From  the  talk  of  the  patrol  he 
gathered  that  His  Excellency  was  at  least  not  ill-disposed  toward 
the  Minorcans  and  intended  to  give  them  a  chance  to  state  their 
case.  But  he  and  Sebastian  stood  in  a  different  position  from  the 
rest  of  the  host. 

The  other  Minorcans  could  come  into  court  with  hands  clean 
of  anything  but  a  bloodless  rebellion  against  an  unjust  employer. 
Sebastian  and  he  had  been  charged  with  murder  and  treason- 
Sebastian  had  killed  Mr.  Cave— both  had  broken  prison— to  mix 
their  grievance  with  the  general  one  would  only  impair  the 
latter's  chance  of  redress.  On  the  other  hand,  if  the  Governor 
were  really  Dr.  Gentian's  foe,  Andrew's  testimony,  being  that 
of  an  Englishman,  might  clinch  the  matter  definitely  in  the 
Minorcans'  favor.  He  had  plenty  of  time  to  think  the  matter 
through  from  every  angle,  and  decided  finally,  that  his  best 
course  was  to  keep  his  identity  hidden  till  the  end  of  the  march 

They  were  camped  on  the  outskirts  of  St.  Augustine  at  last. 
The  captain  had  held  a  long  interview  with  the  prominent  men 
of  the  colony.  In  the  afternoon,  the  Governor  would  ride  out 
to  see  them.  Meanwhile,  they  must  be  patient.  A  small  ration- 


Spanish  Bayonet 

party  might  go  into  town,  but  the  main  body  was  to  remain  in 
camp  and  fraternize  as  little  as  possible  with  the  townspeople. 
He  gave  his  word  for  the  safe-conduct  of  the  ration-party  and 
his  assurance  that  if  these  conditions  were  fulfilled,  the  Governor 
would  grant  them  a  fair  and  open  hearing. 

Then  he  solemnly  posted  sentries  between  the  camp  and  the 
town.  It  was  purely  for  effect— both  he  and  the  Minorcans  knew 
that  if  the  five  hundred  wished  they  could  brush  aside  the  sentries 
and  descend  on  the  town  like  locusts.  But,  being  for  effect,  it 
served.  Hemmed  in  by  a  larger  force,  the  Minorcans  would  have 
begun  to  mill  like  frightened  cattle.  As  it  was  they  settled  down 
quietly  enough,  the  women  to  tending  their  children,  the  men 
to  listen  to  the  boy  with  the  cracked  guitar  or  to  try  and  repair 
gear  damaged  on  the  road. 

Now,  thought  Andrew,  the  time  had  come  for  him  to  make 
his  stroke.  He  asked  to  speak  with  the  captain  in  private  and  in 
a  few  words  stated  his  name  and  his  wish  for  an  interview 
with  the  Governor. 

"Damn  my  boots  and  breeches,"  said  the  captain,  staring  at 
him  keenly,  while  his  hand  drummed  on  the  pommel  of  his 
saddle,  "I  thought  you  spoke  odd  English  for  a  Spaniard— but, 
body  of  hell,  what  a  tale!  I  wouldn't  have  believed— to  be  frank, 
sir,  even  for  a  gentleman  in  straits,  you  make  a  damned  queer 
appearance,  if  you'll  excuse  the  remark." 

"My  grandfather  carried  a  pack,"  said  Andrew,  deliberately, 
smiling.  The  dream  of  the  Beards  of  Westmoreland  departed 
forever  as  he  said  it,  leaving  no  scar  behind.  He  might  play  the 
exquisite  again,  when  he  had  money  and  clean  clothes,  but  never 
without  a  certain  feeling  of  masquerade.  In  theory,  one  could 
always  tell  a  gentleman,  no  matter  how  dirty  he  was— in  prac- 
tice, the  matter  seemed  a  trifle  more  complicated. 

"Oh,  well—"  said  the  captain,  apparently  somewhat  relieved. 
He  stared  at  Andrew  again.  "It  sounds  so  damnable  odd,"  he 
confessed  frankly.  "Of  course  you'll  have  some  acquaintance  in 
the  city  to—."  He  waved  his  hand. 

Andrew  thought.  He  could  hardly  call  on  any  of  the  gentle- 
men he  had  met  at  Judge  Willo's  to  bear  out  his  story— they  were 
all  Dr.  Gentian's  intimates. 

"The  Governor  might  remember  me,  if  I  were  shaved,"  he 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

said  slowly,  "and  then— is  the  Pride  of  the  Colonies  still  in  port? 
Captain  Stout  would  recognize  me,  I  know." 

"Oh,  if  that's  your  man!"  said  the  captain,  "Captain  Stout's 
the  Governor  now,  I  imagine—he's  had  the  devil  of  a  time 
getting  cargo— and  then  the  Governor's  been  holding  him  back 
to  question  him  about  this  insurrection  in  the  North.  He  sails 
this  afternoon— you  may  catch  him  at  the  Governor's  if  you  make 
haste.  Sergeant— Sergeant— "  he  called  peevishly,  "whcre's  one 
of  those  damned  horses?  I  want  to  mount  this  man  and  send  him 
to  the  Governor." 

He  turned  sharply  to  Andrew.  "You  watch  yourself  in  the 
town,"  he  said.  "They're  going  to  burn  some  of  your  rebels  in 
effigy  in  the  square  today— silly  nuisance  burning  fellows  in 
effigy,  but  looks  damned  well  as  an  expression  of  loyalty  in  a 
report"— and  he  laughed  like  a  fox  barking. 

"Sergeant— take  this  man  into  town  with  you  and  see  he  gets 
to  His  Excellency." 

"Shall  I  tie  him,  sir? "  said  the  sergeant,  stolidly,  saluting. 

"Damn  your  boots,  no.  Why  are  you  such  a  damned  old  fool? 
You  can  knock  him  on  the  head  if  he  tries  any  tricks,"  he  added 
thoughtfully,  "but  don't  tie  him  now." 


So  Andrew,  for  the  second  time,  presented  to  the  streets  of 
St.  Augustine  a  queer  and  disreputable  figure,  under  the  hot  sun. 
But  this  time,  though  he  was  ragamuffin  indeed,  he  cared  not  at 
all  where  at  first  he  had  cared  so  greatly.  He  scuffed  his  broken 
shoes  in  his  stirrups,  comfortably,  and  was  only  interested  to  note 
that  a  little  tail  of  pointing,  giggling  children  followed  himself 
and  the  sergeant  to  the  Governor's  door. 

"He  see  the  Governor!"  said  a  dewlapped  Paunch  with  an 
arnber-topped  cane,  regarding  Andrew  with  evident  disgust. 
"He  can't  see  the  Governor!  Ridiculous,  sergeant!  The  Gov- 
ernor's closeted— even  if  he  were  not— the  fellow's  far  too  foul." 

"Captain  Strahan's  orders.  To  see  His  Excellency  at  once," 
repeated  the  sergeant  metallically.  Andrew  gathered  that  he 
did  not  like  the  Paunch. 

"Captain  Strahan's  orders?"  yammered  the  Paunch,  nervously. 


Spanish  Bayonet 

"Well,  why  didn't  you  say  it  was  Captain  Strahan's  orders— if 
you'd  said  it  was  Captain  Strahan's—" 

The  Paunch's  importance  had  shrunk-rhe  was  bustling  away 
through  a  door. 

"Silly  old  capon,"  said  the  sergeant,  devastatingly,  with  the 
air  of  one  who  spits  to  relieve  his  mind. 

The  Paunch  was  back  again,  ushering  Andrew  along  with  fat, 
fluttering  hands.  The  sergeant  clanked  after  them. 

"No  tricks,"  he  was  muttering.  "Captain's  orders.  No  tricks  at 

Then  a  door  was  flung  open  and  Andrew  stumbled  into  a  big, 
cool  room  where  two  men  were  facing  each  other  across  a  desk. 
Both  looked  up  as  he  entered.  The  next  moment  a  chair  went  to 
the  floor  with  a  crash— and  the  hard  paws  of  Captain  Stout  were 
gripping  both  his  hands. 

It  was  later.  Andrew  and  the  Governor  were  alone.  He  had 
told  his  story  in  detail,  with  certain  suppressions,  chiefly  involv- 
ing Sparta  and  the  killing  of  Mr.  Cave.  The  Governor  had  put 
a  number  of  questions,  most  of  them  in  regard  to  things  that 
seemed  to  Andrew  of  little  importance.  Now  at  last  he  seemed 

Andrew  had  tried  to  gage  him  during  the  interview.  He  was 
a  narrow  man  and  a. touchy  one,  but  he  seemed  honest.  Of  his 
long-banked  hate  of  Dr.  Gentian  there  could  be  no  doubt  what- 
ever—it showed  in  every  line  of  his  face  when  the  name  came  up. 
Andrew's  description  of  the  conditions  at  New  Sparta  had  seemed 
to  shock  him  genuinely,  though  not  quite  in  the  way  that  Andrew 
had  expected.  He  seemed  much  more  shocked,  for  instance,  at 
Dr.  Gentian's  failure  to  inform  him  fully  that  he  had  arrested 
Andrew  as  a  traitor. 

"It  won't  do,"  he  kept  saying.  "Won't  do;  man  must  be  mad. 
Political  prisoners  should  be  brought  before  me  at  once." 

"Well,  sir!"  said  Andrew  finally,  when  there  seemed  to  be  no 
more  questions  the  Governor  wished  to  ask. 

The  Governor  fiddled  with  his  inkstand  a  moment.  Then 
he  looked  at  Andrew. 

"You've  put  me  in  a  queer  position,  Mr.  Beard,"  he  said  at 
length.  "Oh,  I  don't  doubt  your  story.  It  only  confirms  what  I've 
suspected,  ever  since  the  colony  started— but  my  predecessor  was 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

a  firm  friend  of  Dr.  Gentian's  and—"  He  frowned.  "Damn  it,  if 
I  could  only  put  you  in  the  witness-box,"  he  burst  out.  "As  it  is, 
I  half-wish  you'd  never  come  to  see  me  at  all." 

"I'm  sorry,"  said  Andrew.  It  seemed  the  only  possible  remark. 

"Oh,  don't  apologize,"  said  the  Governor,  worriedly.  "After  all 
you've  done  me  a  service.  My  mind's  made  up  now.  Oh,  I've  no 
doubt  the  Minorcans  would  have  proved  their  point  in  any  case, 
but  your  tale  clinches  it  for  me.  They  shall  have  their  rights, 
Mr.  Beard.  I'll  settle  them  here— God  knows  a  couple  of  hundred 
good  workers  will  be  a  godsend  to  the  town.  But  now,  Mr. 
Beard."  He  rapped  on  the  desk.  "What  are  we  going  to  do  with 

"I  am  quite  at  your  disposal  sir,"  said  Andrew,  drawing  a  vast 
breath  of  relief. 

"No,  no,"  said  the  Governor,  querulously,  "that's  just  what 
you  can't  be.  If  you  stay  here,  some  of  Gentian's  friends  are  sure 
to  stir  up  trouble  about  that  absurd  charge  of  treason  he's 
brought  against  you."  He  smiled.  "Officially,  Mr.  Beard,  I  have 
not  as  yet,  as  I  say,  been  informed  of  that  charge  through  the 
proper  channels.  But  if  someone  here  should  take  it  into  his 
head  to  lodge  a  direct  accusation— I  should  have  to  notice  it— yes 
—I  should  have  to  notice  it— I  should  have  to  hold  you  for 
examination,  Mr.  Beard— and  then,  damn  it,  the  moment  I  do" 
—he  exploded  again,  "the  fat's  in  the  fire  and  the  whole  Minorcan 
case  is  muddled  with  yours." 

"Of  course,  sir,  if  you  wish  to"— began  Andrew,  slowly. 

"Examine  you?  In  God's  name,  why?"  said  the  Governor, 
brusquely.  "I  know  your  father's  name— Captain  Stout's  told  me 
of  the  sacrifices  he  s  already  made  for  the  Crown."  Captain 
Stout  had  obviously  omitted  any  mention  of  Lucius,  and  Andrew 
was  very  grateful.  "If  you  were  a  traitor,  why  the  devil  would 
you  be  sitting  here  talking  to  me?"  the  Governor  ended.  The 
question  seemed  unanswerable,  and  Andrew  himself  began  to 
wonder  why. 

"No,  Mr.  Beard,"  the  Governor  went  on.  "The  charge  against 
you  is  absurd,  but  it  must  not  be  pressed.  I've  no  doubt  Captain 
Stout  will  trust  your  father's  son  /or  a  passage  to  New  York. 
When  you  reach  there,  you  will,  naturally,  join  the  army.  They 
say  De  Lancey's  raising  a  troop  of  loyalist  horse— well,  Mr. 
Beard,  there's  my  advice,  unofficially.  Do  you  find  it  reasonable?" 

Spanish  Bayonet 

"Most  reasonable,  your  Excellency,"  said  Andrew,  with  a  slight 
smile.  "I  shall,  as  you  say,  return  to  New  York  at  once— and  join 
the  army." 

"Good,"  said  the  Governor,  rising.  "I  shan't  ask  you  for  a 
deposition,  Mr.  Beard— it  will  be  best  if  your  name  is  not  brought 
in  at  all.  You'll  find  Captain  Stout  in  the  anteroom— and  I  should 
advise  you  going  aboard  at  once,  if  I  may  suggest  it." 

"I  have  to  say  good-by  to  a  friend,"  said  Andrew.  "After  that 
I  shall  go  aboard  as  soon  as  possible." 

"A  friend?"  said  the  Governor.  "Oh,  yes— the  Minorcan  boy 
who  was  in  prison  with  you.  I  wish  we  could  get  him  away 
too.  He'll  only  serve  to  confuse  things— and  I  want  a  clear  case." 
He  looked  at  Andrew. 

"Perhaps  it  can  be  managed,"  said  Andrew,  thanking  his  gods 
for  the  narrow  strength  of  the  Governor's  hate  of  Dr.  Gentian, 
that  now  blinded  him  to  everything  but  the  prospect  of  the 
lattcr's  ruin.  "Good  day,  your  Excellency— and  thank  you." 

"Good  day,  Mr.  Beard,  and  a  safe  voyage,"  said  the  Governor, 
turning  back  to  his  papers,  and  Andrew  bowed  and  retreated 
from  the  lion's  jaws. 

He  had  arranged  to  meet  Sebastian  in  the  Plaza,  near  noon,  if 
Sebastian  could  get  leave  from  the  ration  party— and  it  was  there 
he  now  proceeded  with  Captain  Stout.  The  matter  of  his  passage 
was  settled— Captain  Stout  had  offered  it,  before  he  had  had 
time  to  speak.  He  mentioned  Sebastian.  "Body  servant,  too,  I'm 
sure,"  said  Captain  Stout,  amicably,  and  Andrew  thought  it  best 
not  to  explain  further  at  present.  He  looked  at  Captain  Stout  as 
they  walked  along,  trying  to  read  his  political  opinions  in  his 
face,  but  he  could  make  nothing  out  of  those  weathered  features. 

Fooling  the  Governor  or  letting  him  fool  himself  was  one 
thing;  he  did  not  like  the  idea  of  fooling  Captain  Stout.  But  then, 
even  yet— was  he  quite  sure  of  his  own  intent?  He  had  been  quite 
sure;  but  in  the  Governor's  room,  with  its  air  of  power  and  order 
long  established,  the  old  colors  of  things  had  crept  back  to  them 
insensibly,  making  a  world  where  rebels  were  rebels  and  no 
gentleman  in  his  wits  thought  of  fighting  for  anything  but  a 
king.  He  sighed,  cursing  himself  for  a  vacillation  he  could  not 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

help—habit  and  custom  are  strong  chains.  But  he  was  a  shop- 
keeper's son,  not  a  gentleman  in  his  wits  .  .  .  oh,  well,  look  at 
the  people  in  the  streets  and  put  off  thinking  for  a  while.  The 
narrow  streets  were  crowded  with  people  going  to  the  Plaza; 
when  they  came  to  the  Plaza,  it  was  crowded  too. 

"Is  this  a  fiesta  day?"  he  asked  of  his  companion. 

"Not  exactly,'*  said  the  captain,  slowly.  "They  were  talking 
about  burning  some  Guy  Fawkses  or  something—I'm  as  glad  my 
boys  are  on  board  except  for  the  boat's  crew—" 

Then  Andrew  remembered.  The  demonstration  of  loyalty. 
He  saw  a  pile  of  wood  in  the  center  of  the  square  and  was 
horribly  reminded  of  another  such  pile  of  wood  he  had  helped 
to  build.  His  heart  began  to  pound.  He  wanted  to  get  away.  But 
Sebastian  must  be  found  first— ah,  there  he  was,  standing  in  the 
mouth  of  an  alleyway.  Andrew  threw  up  his  hand  and  called  out 
over  the  sea  of  heads.  Sebastian  heard  him,  turned,  waved  back, 
and  started  to  worm  his  way  toward  them,  as  a  ragged  shout 
went  up  from  the  other  side  of  the  square. 

A  drum  was  beating,  a  voice  was  calling,  "Make  way!  Make 
way!"  The  crowd  chattered  and  jostled.  From  the  cramped 
mouth  of  the  street  on  the  other  side  of  the  square  a  procession 
debouched,  the  crowd  fell  away  before  it.  Andrew  felt  Captain 
Stout's  grip  tighten  on  his  arm.  Now  the  head  of  the  procession 
was  out  in  the  square  itself— a  rout  of  men  dressed  in  sorry  rags 
of  carnival.  Some  had  faces  blacked  with  soot,  like  boys  on  Guy 
Fawkes'  Day,  others  wore  painted  ludicrous  masks.  They  were 
singing  and  shouting— the  crowd  roared  its  approval— the  front 
ranks  pressed  back  on  the  toes  of  those  behind  to  leave  a  clear 
path  to  the  woodpile  in  the  center. 

Then  Andrew  heard  himself  saying,  "Damn  you!  Damn  you 
all!"  in  a  hurried  whisper,  as  the  effigies  came  into  sight.  There 
were  two  of  them,  great  lolling  dummies  of  straw,  absurdly 
garbed,  borne  high  on  the  shoulders  of  the  crowd.  They  had 
halters  around  their  necks,  before  them  marched  a  man  with  a 
butcherlike  face,  dressed  in  hangman's  black.  A  rope  was  slung 
over  his  arm  and  he  carried  a  placard  on  a  pole— "Death  to  all 
traitors!"  in  Spanish  and  English.  There  were  other  placards 
in  the  crowd,  and  two  signs  flapped  at  the  bellies  of  the  dum- 
mies. Andrew  could  make  them  out  now,  "Jackie  Hancock"— 
"Sammy  Adams"— 

Spanish  Bayonet 

A  gratified  whoop  went  up  from  the  crowd  at  the  sight  of 
the  dummies.  A  big,  sweating  woman  with  a  large  pink  chamber- 
pot in  her  hand  skipped  nimbly  out  of  the  crowd  and  flung  the 
contents  of  the  vessel  in  the  face  of  the  dummy  marked  "Adams," 
with  a  shrill,  joyous  scream,  splattering  its  bearers. 

Andrew  wrenched  himself  loose  from  Captain  Stout's  hand. 
"Stop  it— stop  it— you  Spanish  bastards—"  he  was  crying,  with 
tears  of  rage  in  his  eyes.  He  saw  a  thousand  grinning  faces  turned 
toward  him,  and  struck  at  the  nearest  wildly,  fighting  and  going 


A  young  man  with  a  newly-broken  head  lay  in  a  tossing 
bunk  in  the  cabin  of  a  ship  at  sea,  and  began  to  feel  the  first 
qualms  of  seasickness  taint  his  relative  content.  He  stirred,  and 
said  as  much. 

"Means  you've  come  out  of  it  nicely,"  said  Captain  Stout, 
bending  over  him.  "You'll  be  pleased  to  know,  Mr.  Beard— 
the  man  that  hit  you  with  the  stick'll  carry  a  thick  ear  some 
time  yet,"  he  added. 

"I  acted  like  a  fool,"  said  Andrew.  "I  don't  see  how  you  got 
away.  But  I  couldn't  stand  the  woman." 

"There,"  said  the  Captain,  soothingly.  "It's  natteral.  Young 
blood's  hot.  /  wasn't  too  pleased,"  he  went  on.  "No,  we  wasn't 
any  of  us  too  pleased  with  the  goings  on.  Told  'em  you  were 
one  of  my  crew  with  a  touch  of  sun.  They  swallowed  it.  I 
wanted  to  tell  them  something  else.  But  you'll  thank  your  Spanish 
friend— I  couldn't  have  got  you  off  alone— let  alone  talk  their 
jabber  fast  enough—" 

"What  happened  to  him?"  said  Andrew  feebly. 

"He's  here."  The  Captain  chuckled.  "Ain't  you,  Spanish?" 

"Si  senor"  came  a  voice  from  the  upper  bunk.  "But  sick  as 
a  soldier.  How  are  you,  my  friend?" 

"Much  as  you  are,"  said  Andrew,  and  laughed.  "I'm  glad  you're 
here,  Sebastian." 

"Gracias"  said  the  voice  from  above.  "We  changed  knives— 
I  follow  my  knife.  Besides,"  he  added,  after  a  moment,  "I,  too, 
have  a  certain  desire  to  help  the  donkey  we  spoke  of  kick  off  his 
rider.  The  rider  wears  too  red  a  coat  to  suit  me." 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"What  about  you,  Captain?"  said  Andrew,  after  a  pause. 

"Oh,  we're  all  liberty-boys,  now,"  said  the  Captain,  with  a 
casual  chuckle.  "Didn't  say  so  before,  you  being  your  father's 
son;  but  we're  all  liberty-boys  on  the  Pride  now— if  I  didn't  tell 
the  Governor.  Lord,  I  thought  he'd  have  me  a  dozen  times,  but 
I  never  saw  a  soldier  that  wasn't  a  turniphead." 

"Does  my  father  know  you're  a  liberty-boy,  sir?"  said  Andrew, 

"Not  yet,"  said  the  Captain.  "That'll  go  hard,  it  will.  Well,  I 
thought  I'd  do  my  duty  by  him,  this  last  time.  And  then,  if  it's 
going  to  be  as  long  a  war  as  I  reckon  it,  what's  the  harm  in  doing 
a  bit  of  trading  first?"  He  spat  out  the  porthole.  "Seem  queer  at 
the  start,  going  counter  to  old  King  George,"  he  added  thought- 
fully. "Not  that  I've  ever  seen  the  man,  but  I've  always  had  a 
sort  of  picture  of  him.  Well,  life's  unexpected  and  that's  a  fact." 
He  seemed  to  take  comfort  in  the  truism. 

"They've  got  a  flag  with  a  rattlesnake  on  it,"  he  continued. 
"Liberty  or  Death.  It'll  be  queer  to  raise  it.  The  Pride's  had 
British  colors  up  ever  since  she  was  launched.  She's  used  to  them. 
Well,  she'll  have  to  learn  new  ways.  I  hope  she'll  like  them,  but 
I'm  doubtful."  He  shook  his  head. 

"We'll  all  have  to  get  used  to  new  ways,"  said  Andrew.  He 
stared  into  the  future,  trying  to  pierce  it,  but  he  could  see  nothing. 
It  did  not  matter,  his  own  course  was  plain. 

"How  long  will  it  take  us,  Captain?"  he  said. 

"Couldn't  say,  Mr.  Beard,  but  the  rumpus'll  still  be  going 
when  we  get  back.  The  lobsters  think  it  won't,  but  it  will.  You 
see,  King  George  Third's  gone  too  far—and  we  mean  to  break 
loose  now.  That  makes  the  difference." 

"I  suppose  so,"  said  Andrew,  lying  back  and  thinking  of  all 
that  had  passed  since  he  last  lay  in  a  ship's  bunk.  What  had  he 
got  from  all  of  it— what  had  he  done?  The  Minorcans  had 
rescued  themselves— he  had  not  even  killed  Mr.  Cave.  Caterina— 
he  had  not  thought  much  of  that  mound  in  the  little  cove  since 
they  had  left  it,  he  had  not  had  time  or  strength.  He  thought 
of  it  now.  She  had  saved  him,  her  he  had  been  unable  to  save. 
He  had  only  been  able  to  leave  a  part  of  his  youth  where  she 
lay,  for  the  wind  to  blow  off  like  ash.  Even  now  he  was  not 
sure  that  he  had  loved  her,  as  he  understood  love—nor  could  he 
see  her  his,  in  life,  by  any  fantasy  of  mind.  There  had  been  a  spell 


Spanish  Bayonet 

between  them—an  incantation— it  had  worked  itself  out  and 
passed— gone  back  beyond  the  moon.  For  the  last  time,  as  the 
ship  tossed  and  the  sea  grew  rougher,  the  shape  of  the  Spanish 
bayonet  arose  in  his  mind,  with  its  thorns  and  its  white  flower, 
incongruous,  enchanted,  pure. 

Out  of  all  the  confused  and  brilliant  turmoil  of  the  past  year 
that  visionary  semblance  alone  remained  steadfast— that  semblance 
and  his  friend  Sebastian— perhaps  they  were  enough. 

Yet  he  trembled,  hurt  and  aching,  uncomforted  by  the  knowl- 
edge that  hurt  and  ache  would  pass,  as  in  time  they  would,  and 
become  only  a  colored  memory,  a  ghost  of  perfume.  Now  he  only 
knew  that  he  wanted  to  hear  Caterina's  voice,  and  that  she  was 
dead.  But  even  at  the  worst  of  this  bitterness,  other  thoughts 
came— New  York— Lucius— a  musket— a  rebel  army—a  lion  and  a 
unicorn  hunted  through  green  Massachusetts  woods.  In  a  short 
while,  unconsciously,  he  found  himself  seeing  Sebastian  and  a 
boy  with  his  own  face  cooking  hominy  on  a  griddle  over  a 
soldier's  campfire.  His  inexperience  of  war  lent  the  picture  a 
plausibility,  a  charm  almost.  The  risen  sun  cast  a  broad  path  of 
illusion  at  the  feet  of  the  two  figures,  the  blue  smoke  of  the  fire 
fluttered,  there  was  a  smell  of  burning  leaves  in  the  air.  Soon 
enough  the  drum  would  assert  its  sharp,  monotonous  scorn. 

"Well,  sir,"  said  the  Captain,  "you'll  be  feeling  better  tomor- 
row.'5 He  was  going  now.  "No  objection  to  your  Spanish  friend 
bunking  in  with  you?" 

"No.  He's  my  friend,"  said  Andrew,  as  if  in  explanation  of 
more  than  the  question  had  asked.  "Good  night,  Captain." 

"Good  night,  Mr.  Beard.  You'll  find  dirty  weather  when  you 
get  up  tomorrow— it's  coming  on  to  blow," 



Tales  of  Our  Time 


I'M  writing  this  down  because  I  don't  ever  want  to  forget  the 
way  it  was.  It  doesn't  seem  as  if  I  could,  now,  but  they  all  tell 
you  things  change.  And  I  guess  they're  right.  Older  people  must 
have  forgotten  or  they  couldn't  be  the  way  they  are.  And  that 
goes  for  even  the  best  ones,  like  Dad  and  Mr.  Grant.  They  try  to 
understand  but  they  don't  seem  to  know  how.  And  the  others 
make  you  feel  dirty  or  else  they  make  you  feel  like  a  goof.  Till, 
pretty  soon,  you  begin  to  forget  yourself—you  begin  to  think, 
"Well,  maybe  they're  right  and  it  was  that  way."  And  that's  the 
end  of  everything.  So  I've  got  to  write  this  down.  Because  they 
smashed  it  forever— but  it  wasn't  the  way  they  said. 

Mr.  Grant  always  says  in  comp.  class:  "Begin  at  the  beginning." 
Only  I  don't  know  quite  where  the  beginning  was.  We  had  a 
good  summer  at  Big  Lake  but  it  was  just  the  same  summer.  I 
worked  pretty  hard  at  the  practice  basket  I  rigged  up  in  the  barn, 
and  I  learned  how  to  do  the  back  jackknife.  I'll  never  dive  like 
Kerry  but  you  want  to  be  as  all-around  as  you  can.  And,  when 
I  took  my  measurements,  at  the  end  of  the  summer,  I  was  5  ft. 
p%  and  I'd  gained  12  Ibs.  6  oz.  That  isn't  bad  for  going  on  six- 
teen and  the  old  chest  expansion  was  O.  K.  You  don't  want  to 
get  too  heavy,  because  basketball's  a  fast  game,  but  the  year  be- 
fore was  the  year  when  I  got  my  height,  and  I  was  so  skinny,  I 
got  tired.  But  this  year,  Kerry  helped  me  practice,  a  couple  of 
times,  and  he  seemed  to  think  I  had  a  good  chance  for  the  team. 
So  I  felt  pretty  set  up— they'd  never  had  a  Sophomore  on  it  before. 
And  Kerry's  a  natural  athlete,  so  that  means  a  lot  from  him. 
He's  a  pretty  good  brother  too.  Most  Juniors  at  State  wouldn't 
bother  with  a  fellow  in  High. 

It  sounds  as  if  I  were  trying  to  run  away  from  what  I  have 
to  write  down,  but  I'm  not.  I  want  to  remember  that  summer, 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

too,  because  it's  the  last  happy  one  I'll  ever  have.  Oh,  when  I'm 
an  old  man— thirty  or  forty— things  may  be  all  right  again.  But 
that's  a  long  time  to  wait  and  it  won't  be  the  same. 

And  yet,  that  summer  was  different,  too,  in  a  way.  So  it  must 
have  started  then,  though  I  didn't  know  it.  I  went  around  with 
the  gang  as  usual  and  we  had  a  good  time.  But,  every  now  and 
then,  it  would  strike  me  we  were  acting  like  awful  kids.  They 
thought  I  was  getting  the  big  head,  but  I  wasn't.  It  just  wasn't 
much  fun— even  going  to  the  cave.  It  was  like  going  on  shooting 
marbles  when  you're  in  High. 

I  had  sense  enough  not  to  try  to  tag  after  Kerry  and  his 
crowd.  You  can't  do  that.  But  when  they  all  got  out  on  the  lake 
in  canoes,  warm  evenings,  and  somebody  brought  a  phonograph 
along,  I  used  to  go  down  to  the  Point,  all  by  myselr,  and  listen 
and  listen.  Maybe  they'd  be  talking  or  maybe  they'd  be  singing, 
but  it  all  sounded  mysterious  across  the  water.  I  wasn't  trying  to 
hear  what  they  said,  you  know.  That's  the  kind  of  thing  Tot 
Pickens  does.  I'd  just  listen,  with  my  arms  around  my  knees— and 
somehow  it  would  hurt  me  to  listen— and  yet  I'd  rather  do  that 
than  be  with  the  gang. 

I  was  sitting  under  the  four  pines,  one  night,  right  down  by 
the  edge  of  the  water.  There  was  a  big  moon  and  they  were 
singing.  It's  funny  how  you  gan  be  unhappy  and  nobody  know 
it  but  yourself. 

I  was  thinking  about  Sheila  Coe.  She's  Kerry's  girl.  They  fight 
but  they  get  along.  She's  awfully  pretty  and  she  can  swim  like 
a  fool.  Once  Kerry  sent  me  over  with  her  tennis  racket  and  we 
had  quite  a  conversation.  She  was  fine.  And  she  didn't  pull  any 
of  this  big  sister  stuff,  either,  the  way  some  girls  will  with  a 
fellow's  kid  brother. 

And  when  the  canoe  came  along,  by  the  edge  of  the  lake,  I 
thought  for  a  moment  it  was  her.  I  thought  maybe  she  was 
looking  for  Kerry  and  maybe  she'd  stop  and  maybe  she'd  feel 
like  talking  to  me  again.  I  don't  know  why  I  thought  that— I 
didn't  have  any  reason.  Then  I  saw  it  was  just  the  Sharon  kid, 
with  a  new  kind  of  bob  that  made  her  look  grown-up,  and  I  felt 
sore.  She  didn't  have  any  business  out  on  the  lake  at  her  age. 
She  was  just  a  Sophomore  in  High,  the  same  as  ime. 

I  chunked  a  stone  in  the  water  and  it  splashed  right  by  the 


Too  Early  Spring 

canoe,  but  she  didn't  squeal.  She  just  said,  "Fish,"  and  chuckled. 
It  struck  me  it  was  a  kid's  trick,  trying  to  scare  a  kid. 

"Hello,  Helen,"  I  said.  "Where  did  you  swipe  the  gunboat?" 

"They  don't  know  I've  got  it,"  she  said.  "Oh,  hello,  Chuck 
Peters.  How's  Big  Lake?" 

"All  right,"  I  said.  "How  was  camp?" 

"It  was  peachy,"  she  said.  "We  had  a  peachy  counselor,  Miss 
Morgan.  She  was  on  the  Wellesley  field-hockey  team." 

"Well,"  I  said,  "we  missed  your  society."  Of  course  we  hadn't, 
because  they're  across  the  lake  and  don't  swim  at  our  raft.  But 
you  ought  to  be  polite. 

"Thanks,"  she  said.  "Did  you  do  the  special  reading  for  Eng- 
lish? I  thought  it  was  dumb." 

"It's  always  dumb,"  I  said.  "What  canoe  is  that?" 

"It's  the  old  one,"  she  said.  "I'm  not  supposed  to  have  it  out  at 
night.  But  you  won't  tell  anybody,  will  you?" 

"Be  your  age,"  I  said.  I  felt  generous.  "I'll  paddle  a  while,  if 
you  want,"  I  said. 

"All  right,"  she  said,  so  she  brought  it  in  and  I  got  aboard.  She 
went  back  in  the  bow  and  I  took  the  paddle.  I'm  not  strong  on 
carting  kids  around,  as  a  rule.  But  it  was  better  than  sitting  there 
by  myself. 

"Where  do  you  want  to  go?"  I  said. 

"Oh,  back  towards  the  house,"  she  said  in  a  shy  kind  of  voice. 
"I  ought  to,  really.  I  just  wanted  to  hear  the  singing." 

"K.  O.,"  I  said.  I  didn't  paddle  fast,  just  let  her  slip.  There 
was  a  lot  of  moon  on  the  water.  We  kept  around  the  edge  so 
they  wouldn't  notice  us.  The  singing  sounded  as  if  it  came  from 
a  different  country,  a  long  way  off. 

She  was  a  sensible  kid,  she  didn't  ask  fool  questions  or  giggle 
about  nothing  at  all.  Even  when  we  went  by  Fetters'  Cove.  That's 
where  the  lads  from  the  bungalow  colony  go  and  it's  pretty  well 
populated  on  a  warm  night.  You  can  hear  them  talking  in  low 
voices  and  now  and  then  a  laugh.  Once  Tot  Pickens  and  a  gang 
went  over  there  with  a  flashlight,  and  a  big  Bohunk  chased  them 
for  half  a  mile, 

I  felt  funny,  going  by  there  with  her.  But  I  said,  "Well,  it's 
certainly  Old  Home  Week"— in  an  offhand  tone,  because,  after 
all,  you've  got  to  be  sophisticated.  And  she  said,  "People  are 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

funny,"  in  just  the  right  sort  of  way.  I  took  quite  a  shine  to  her 
after  that  and  we  talked.  The  Sharons  have  only  been  in  town 
three  years  and  somehow  I'd  never  really  noticed  her  before. 
Mrs.  Sharon's  awfully  good-looking  but  she  and  Mr.  Sharon 
fight.  That's  hard  on  a  kic|.  And  she  was  a  quiet  kid.  She  had  a 
small  kind  of  face  and  her  eyes  were  sort  of  like  a  kitten's.  You 
could  see  she  got  a  great  kick  out  of  pretending  to  be  grown-up 
—and  yet  it  wasn't  all  pretending.  A  couple  of  times,  I  felt  just 
as  if  I  were  talking  to  Sheila  Coe.  Only  more  comfortable,  be- 
cause, after  all,  we  were  the  same  age. 

Do  you  know,  after  we  put  the  canoe  up,  I  walked  all  the 
way  back  home,  around  the  lake?  And  most  of  the  way,  I  ran. 
I  felt  swell  too.  I  felt  as  if  I  could  run  forever  and  not  stop.  It 
was  like  finding  something.  I  hadn't  imagined  anybody  could 
ever  feel  the  way  I  did  about  some  things.  And  here  was  another 
person,  even  if  it  was  a  girl. 

Kerry's  door  was  open  when  I  went  by  and  he  stuck  his  head 
out,  and  grinned. 

"Well,  kid,"  he  said.  Stepping  out?" 

"Sure.  With  Greta  Garbo,"  I  said,  and  grinned  back  to  show 
I  didn't  mean  it.  I  felt  sort  of  lightheaded,  with  the  run  and 

"Look  here,  kid—"  he  said,  as  if  he  was  going  to  say  some- 
thing. Then  he  stopped.  But  there  was  a  funny  look  on  his  face. 

And  yet  I  didn't  see  her  again  till  we  were  both  back  in  High. 
Mr.  Sharon's  uncle  died,  back  East,  and  they  closed  the  cottage 
suddenly.  But  all  the  rest  of  the  time  at  Big  Lake,  I  kept  remem- 
bering that  night  and  her  little  face.  If  I'd  seen  her  in  daylight, 
first,  it  might  have  been  different.  No,  it  wouldn't  have  been. 

All  the  same,  I  wasn't  even  thinking  of  her  when  we  bumped 
into  each  other,  the  first  day  of  school.  It  was  raining  and  she 
had  on  a  green  slicker  and  her  hair  was  curly  under  her  hat.  We 
grinned  and  said  hello  and  had  to  run.  But  something  happened 
to  us,  I  guess. 

I'll  say  this  now— it  wasn't  like  Tot  Pickens  and  Mabel  Palmer. 
It  wasn't  like  Junior  David  and  Betty  Page— though  they've  been 
going  together  ever  since  kindergarten.  It  wasn't  like  any  of  those 
things.  We  didn't  get  sticky  and  sloppy.  It  wasn't  like  going  with 
a  girl. 

Gosh,  there'd  be  days  and  days  when  we'd  hardly  see-  each 


Too  Early  Spring 

other,  except  in  class.  I  had  basketball  practice  almost  every  after- 
noon and  sometimes  evenings  and  she  was  taking  music  lessons 
four  times  a  week.  But  you  don't  have  to  be  always  twos-ing  with 
a  person,  if  you  feel  that  way  about  them.  You  seem  to  know  the 
way  they're  thinking  and  feeling,  the  way  you  know  yourself. 

Now  let  me  describe  her.  She  had  that  little  face  and  the  eyes 
like  a  kitten's.  When  it  rained,  her  hair  curled  all  over  the  back 
of  her  neck.  Her  hair  was  yellow.  She  wasn't  a  tall  girl  but  she 
wasn't  chunky—just  light  and  well  made  and  quick.  She  was 
awfully  alive  without  being  nervous— she  never  bit  her  finger- 
nails or  chewed  the  end  of  her  pencil,  but  she'd  answer  quicker 
than  anyone  in  the  class.  Nearly  everybody  liked  her,  but  she 
wasn't  best  friends  with  any  particular  girl,  the  mushy  way  they 
get.  The  teachers  all  thought  a  lot  of  her,  even  Miss  Eagles. 
Well,  I  had  to  spoil  that. 

If  we'd  been  like  Tot  and  Mabel,  we  could  have  had  a  lot 
more  time  together,  I  guess.  But  Helen  isn't  a  liar  and  I'm  not 
a  snake.  It  wasn't  easy,  going  over  to  her  house,  because  Mr. 
and  Mrs.  Sharon  would  be  polite  to  each  other  in  front  of  you 
and  yet  there'd  be  something  wrong.  And  she'd  have  to  be  fair 
to  both  of  them  and  they  were  always  pulling  at  her.  But  we'd 
look  at  each  other  across  the  table  and  then  it  would  be  all  right. 

I  don't  know  when  it  was  that  we  knew  we'd  get  married  to 
each  other,  some  time.  We  just  started  talking  about  it,  one  day, 
as  if  we  always  had.  We  were  sensible,  we  knew  it  couldn't 
happen  right  off.  We  thought  maybe  when  we  were  eighteen. 
That  was  two  years  but  we  knew  we  had  to  be  educated.  You 
don't  get  as  good  a  job,  if  you  aren't.  Or  that's  what  people  say. 

We  weren't  mushy  either,  like  some  people.  We  got  to  kissing 
each  other  good-by,  sometimes,  because  that's  what  you  do  when 
you're  in  love.  It  was  cool,  the  way  she  kissed  you,  it  was  like 
leaves.  But  lots  of  the  time  we  wouldn't  even  talk  about  getting 
married,  we'd  just  play  checkers  or  go  over  the  old  Latin,  or  once 
in  a  while  go  to  the  movies  with  the  gang.  It  was  really  a  won- 
derful winter.  I  played  every  game  after  the  first  one  and  she'd 
sit  in  the  gallery  and  watch  and  I'd  know  she  was  there.  You 
could  see  her  little  green  hat  or  her  yellow  hair.  Those  are  the 
class  colors,  green  and  gold. 

And  it's  a  queer  thing,  but  everybody  seemed  to  be  pleased. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

That's  what  I  can't  get  over.  They  liked  to  see  us  together.  The 
grown  people,  I  mean.  Oh,  of  course,  we  got  kidded  too.  And 
old  Mrs.  Withers  would  ask  me  about  "my  little  sweetheart,"  in 
that  awful  damp  voice  of  hers.  But,  mostly,  they  were  all  right. 
Even  Mother  was  all  right,  though  she  didn't  like  Mrs.  Sharon. 
I  did  hear  her  say  to  Father,  once,  "Really,  George,  how  long  is 
this  going  to  last?  Sometimes  I  feel  as  if  I  just  couldn't  stand  it." 

Then  Father  chuckled  and  said  to  her,  "Now,  Mary,  last 
year  you  were  worried  about  him  because  he  didn't  take  any  in- 
terest in  girls  at  all." 

"Well,"  she  said,  "he  still  doesn't.  Oh,  Helen's  a  nice  child-no 
credit  to  Eva  Sharon— and  thank  heaven  she  doesn't  giggle.  Well, 
Charles  is  mature  for  his  age  too.  But  he  acts  so  solemn  about 
her.  It  isn't  natural." 

"Oh,  let  Charlie  alone,"  said  Father.  "The  boy's  all  right.  He's 
just  got  a  one-track  mind." 

But  it  wasn't  so  nice  for  us  after  the  spring  came. 

In  our  part  of  the  state,  it  comes  pretty  late,  as  a  rule.  But  it 
was  early  this  year.  The  little  kids  were  out  with  scooters  when 
usually  they'd  still  be  having  snowfights  and,  all  of  a  sudden,  the 
radiators  in  the  classrooms  smelt  dry.  You'd  got  used  to  that 
smell  for  months— and  then,  there  was  a  day  when  you  hated  it 
again  and  everybody  kept  asking  to  open  the  windows.  The 
monitors  had  a  tough  time,  that  first  week— they  always  do  when 
spring  starts— but  this  year  it  was  worse  than  ever  because  it  came 
when  you  didn't  expect  it. 

Usually,  basketball's  over  by  the  time  spring  really  breaks,  but 
this  year  it  hit  us  while  we  still  had  three  games  to  play.  And  it 
certainly  played  hell  with  us  as  a  team.  After  Bladesburg  nearly 
licked  us,  Mr.  Grant  called  off  all  practice  till  the  day  before  the 
St.  Matthew's  game.  He  knew  we  were  stale— and  they've  been 
state  champions  two  years.  They'd  have  walked  all  over  us,  the 
way  we  were  going. 

The  first  thing  I  did  was  telephone  Helen.  Because  that  meant 
there  were  six  extra  afternoons  we  could  have,  if  she  could  get 
rid  of  her  music  lessons  any  way.  Well,  she  said,  wasn't  it  won- 
derful, her  music  teacher  had  a  cold?  And  that  seemed  just  like 

Well,  that  was  a  great  week  and  we  were  so  happy.  We  went 


Too  Early  Spring 

to  the  movies  five  times  and  once  Mrs.  Sharon  let  us  take  her  little 
car.  She  knew  I  didn't  have  a  driving  license  but  of  course  I've 
driven  ever  since  I  was  thirteen  and  she  said  it  was  all  right.  She 
was  funny— sometimes  she'd  be  awfully  kind  and  friendly  to  you 
and  sometimes  she'd  be  like  a  piece  of  dry  ice.  She  was  that  way 
with  Mr.  Sharon  too.  But  it  was  a  wonderful  ride.  We  got  stuff 
out  of  the  kitchen—the  cook's  awfully  sold  on  Helen— and  drove 
way  out  in  the  country.  And  we  found  an  old  house,  with  the 
windows  gone,  on  top  of  a  hill,  and  parked  the  car  and  took 
the  stuff  up  to  the  house  and  ate  it  there.  There  weren't  any 
chairs  or  tables  but  we  pretended  there  were. 

We  pretended  it  was  our  house,  after  we  were  married.  I'll 
never  forget  that.  She'd  even  brought  paper  napkins  and  paper 
plates  and  she  set  two  places  on  the  floor. 

"Well,  Charles,"  she  said,  sitting  opposite  me,  with  her  feet 
tucked  under,  "I  don't  suppose  you  remember  the  days  we  were 
both  in  school." 

"Sure,"  I  said— she  was  always  much  quicker  pretending  things 
than  I  was— "I  remember  them  all  right.  That  was  before  Tot 
Pickens  got  to  be  President."  And  we  both  laughed. 

"It  seems  very  distant  in  the  past  to  me— we've  been  married 
so  long,"  she  said,  as  if  she  really  believed  it.  She  looked  at  me. 

"Would  you  mind  turning  off  the  radio,  dear?"  she  said.  "This 
modern  music  always  gets  on  my  nerves." 

"Have  we  got  a  radio?"  I  said. 

"Of  course,  Chuck." 

"With  television?" 

"Of  course,  Chuck." 

"Gee,  I'm  glad,"  I  said.  I  went  and  turned  it  off. 

"Of  course,  if  you  'want  to  listen  to  the  late  market  reports—" 
she  said  just  like  Mrs.  Sharon. 

"Nope,"  I  said.  "The  market— uh— closed  firm  today.  Up 
twentyt-six  points." 

"That's  quite  a  long  way  up,  isn't  it?" 

"Well,  the  country's  perfectly  sound  at  heart,  in  spite  of  this 
damnfool  Congress,"  I  said,  like  Father. 

She  lowered  her  eyes  a  minute,  just  like  her  mother,  and 
pushed  away  her  plate. 

"I'm  not  very  hungry  tonight,"  .she  said.  "You  won't  mind  if 
I  go  upstairs?" 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Aw,  don't  be  like  that,"  I  said.  It  was  too  much  like  her 

"I  was  just  seeing  if  I  could/'  she  said.  uBut  I  never  will, 

"I'll  never  tell  you  you're  nervous,  either,"  I  said.  "I— oh,  gosh!" 

She  grinned  and  it  was  all  right.  "Mr.  Ashland  and  I  have 
never  had  a  serious  dispute  in  our  wedded  lives,"  she  said— and 
everybody  knows  who  runs  that  family.  "We  just  talk  things 
over  calmly  and  reach  a  satisfactory  conclusion,  usually  mine." 

"Say,  what  kind  of  house  have  we  got?" 

"It's  a  lovely  house,"  she  said.  "We've  got  radios  in  every 
room  and  lots  of  servants.  We've  got  a  regular  movie  projector 
and  a  library  full  of  good  classics  and  there's  always  something  in 
the  icebox.  I've  got  a  shoe  closet." 

"A  what?" 

"A  shoe  closet.  All  my  shoes  are  on  tipped  shelves,  like 
Mother's.  And  all  my  dresses  arc  on  those  padded  hangers.  And  I 
say  to  the  maid,  'Elsie,  Madam  will  wear  the  new  French  model 
today.'  " 

"What  are  my  clothes  on?"  I  said.  "Christmas  trees?" 

"Well,"  she  said.  "You've  got  lots  of  clothes  and  dogs.  You 
smell  of  pipes  and  the  open  and  something  called  Harrisburg 

"I  do  not,"  I  said.  "I  wish  I  had  a  dog.  It's  a  long  time  since 

"Oh,  Chuck,  I'm  sorry,"  she  said. 

"Oh,  that's  all  right,"  I  said.  "He  was  getting  old  and  his  ear 
was  always  bothering  him.  But  he  was  a  good  pooch.  Go  ahead." 

"Well,"  she  said,  "of  course  we  give  parties—" 

"Cut  the  parties,"  I  said. 

"Chuck!  They're  grand  ones!" 

"I'm  a  homebody,"  I  said.  "Give  me— er— my  wife  and  my  little 
family  and— say,  how  many  kids  have  we  got,  anyway?" 

She  counted  on  her  fingers.  "Seven." 

"Good  Lord,"  I  said. 

"Well,  I  always  wanted  seven.  You  can  make  it  three,  if  you 

"Oh,  seven's  all  right,  I  suppose,"  I  said.  "But  don't  they  get 
awfully  in  the  way?" 


Too  Early  Spring 

"No,"  she  said.  "We  have  governesses  and  tutors  and  send  them 
to  boarding  school." 

"O.  K.,"  I  said.  "But  it's  a  strain  on  the  old  man's  pocketbook, 
just  the  same." 

"Chuck,  will  you  ever  talk  like  that?  Chuck,  this  is  when  we're 
rich."  Then  suddenly,  she  looked  sad.  "Oh,  Chuck,  do  you  sup- 
pose we  ever  will?"  she  said. 

"Why,  sure,"  I  said. 

"I  wouldn't  mind  if  it  was  only  a  dump,"  she  said.  "I  could 
cook  for  you.  I  keep  asking  Hilda  how  she  makes  things." 

I  felt  awfully  funny.  I  felt  as  if  I  were  going  to  cry. 

"We'll  do  it,"  I  said.  "Don't  you  worry." 

"Oh,  Chuck,  you're  a  comfort,"  she  said. 

I  held  her  for  a  while.  It  was  like  holding  something  awfully 
precious.  It  wasn't  mushy  or  that  way.  I  know  what  that's  like 

"It  takes  so  long  to  get  old,"  she  said.  "I  wish  I  could  grow  up 
tomorrow.  I  wish  we  both  could." 

"Don't  you  worry,"  I  said.  "It's  going  to  be  all  right." 

We  didn't  say  much,  going  back  in  the  car,  but  we  were  happy 
enough.  I  thought  we  passed  Miss  Eagles  at  the  turn.  That 
worried  me  a  little  because  of  the  driving  license.  But,  after  all, 
Mrs.  Sharon  had  said  we  could  take  the  car. 

We  wanted  to  go  back  again,  after  that,  but  it  was  too  far  to 
walk  and  that  was  the  only  time  we  had  the  car.  Mrs.  Sharon 
was  awfully  nice  about  it  but  she  said,  thinking  it  over,  maybe 
we'd  better  wait  till  I  got  a  license.  Well,  Father  didn't  want  me 
to  get  one  till  I  was  seventeen  but  I  thought  he  might  come 
around.  I  didn't  want  to  do  anything  that  would  get  Helen  in 
a  jam  with  her  family.  That  shows  how  careful  I  was  of  her.  Or 
thought  I  was. 

All  the  same,  we  decided  we'd  do  something  to  celebrate  if  the 
team  won  the  St.  Matthew's  game.  We  thought  it  would  be  fun 
if  we  could  get  a  steak  and  cook  supper  out  somewhere— some- 
thing like  that.  Of  course  we  could  have  done  it  easily  enough 
with  a  gang,  but  we  didn't  want  a  gang.  We  wanted  to  be  alone 
together,  the  way  we'd  been  at  the  house.  That  was  all  we 
wanted.  I  don't  see  what's  wrong  about  that.  We  even  took  home 
the  paper  plates,  so  as  not  to  litter  things  up. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Boy,  that  was  a  game!  We  beat  them  36-34  and  it  took  an  extra 
period  and  I  thought  it  would  never  end.  That  two-goal  lead 
they  had  looked  as  big  as  the  Rocky  Mountains  all  the  first  half. 
And  they  gave  me  the  full  school  cheer  with  nine  Peters  when 
we  tied  them  up.  You  don't  forget  things  like  that. 

Afterwards,  Mr.  Grant  had  a  kind  of  spread  for  the  team  at  his 
house  and  a  lot  of  people  came  in.  Kerry  had  driven  down  from 
State  to  see  the  game  and  that  made  me  feel  pretty  swell.  And 
what  made  me  feel  better  yet  was  his  taking  me  aside  and  say- 
ing, "Listen,  kid,  I  don't  want  you  to  get  the  swelled  head,  but 
you  did  a  good  job.  Well,  just  remember  this.  Don't  let  anybody 
kid  you  out  of  going  to  State.  You'll  like  it  up  there."  And  Mr. 
Grant  heard  him  and  laughed  and  said,  "Well,  Peters,  I'm  not 
proselytizing.  But  your  brother  might  think  about  some  of  the 
Eastern  colleges."  It  was  all  like  the  kind  of  dream  you  have 
when  you  can  do  anything.  It  was  wonderful. 

Only  Helen  wasn't  there  because  the  only  girls  were  older 
girls.  I'd  seen  her  for  a  minute,  right  after  the  game,  and  she  was 
fine,  but  it  was  only  a  minute.  I  wanted  to  tell  her  about  that 
big  St.  Matthew's  forward  and— oh,  everything.  Well,  you  like 
to  talk  things  over  with  your  girl. 

Father  and  Mother  were  swell  but  they  had  to  go  on  to  some 
big  shindy  at  the  country  club.  And  Kerry  was  going  there  with 
Sheila  Coe.  But  Mr.  Grant  said  he'd  run  me  back  to  the  house  in 
his  car  and  he  did.  He's  a  great  guy.  He  made  jokes  about  my 
being  the  infant  phenomenon  of  basketball,  and  they  were  good 
jokes  too.  I  didn't  mind  them.  But,  all  the  same,  when  I'd  said 
good  night  to  him  and  gone  into  the  house,  I  felt  sort  of  let  down. 

I  knew  I'd  be  tired  the  next  day  but  I  didn't  feel  sleepy  yet.  I 
was  too  excited.  I  wanted  to  talk  to  somebody.  I  wandered 
around  downstairs  and  wondered  if  Ida  was  still  up.  Well,  she 
wasn't,  but  she'd  left  half  a  chocolate  cake,  covered  over,  on 
the  kitchen  table,  and  a  note  on  top  of  it,  "Congratulations  to 
Mister  Charles  Peters."  Well,  that  was  awfully  nice  of  her  and  I 
ate  some.  Then  I  turned  the  radio  on  and  got  the  time  signal- 
eleven— and  some  snappy  music.  But  still  I  didn't  feel  like  hitting 
the  hay. 

So  I  thought  I'd  call  up  Helen  and  then  I  thought-probably 
she's  asleep  and  Hilda  or  Mrs.  Sharon  will  answer  the  phone  and 
be  sore.  And  then  I  thought— well,  anyhow,  I  could  go  over  and 


Too  Early  Spring 

walk  around  the  block  and  look  at  her  house.  Fd  get  some  fresh 
air  out  of  it,  anyway,  and  it  would  be  a  little  like  seeing  her. 

So  I  did— and  it  was  a  swell  night— cool  and  a  lot  of  stars— 
and  I  felt  like  a  king,  walking  over.  All  the  lower  part  of  the 
Sharon  house  was  dark  but  a  window  upstairs  was  lit.  I  knew  it 
was  her  window.  I  went  around  back  of  the  driveway  and  whis- 
tled once—the  whistle  we  made  up.  I  never  expected  her  to  hear. 

But  she  did,  and  there  she  was  at  the  window,  smiling.  She 
made  motions  that  she'd  come  down  to  the  side  door. 

Honestly,  it  took  my  breath  away  when  I  saw  her.  She  had  on 
a  kind  of  yellow  thing  over  her  night  clothes  and  she  looked  so 
pretty.  Her  feet  were  so  pretty  in  those  slippers.  You  almost 
expected  her  to  be  carrying,  one  of  those  animals  that  kids  like— 
she  looked  young  enough.  I  know  I  oughtn't  to  have  gone  into 
the  house.  But  we  didn't  think  anything  about  it— we  were  just 
glad  to  see  each  other.  We  hadn't  had  any  sort  of  chance  to  talk 
over  the  game. 

We  sat  in  front  of  the  fire  in  the  living  room  and  she  went 
out  to  the  kitchen  and  got  us  cookies  and  rnilk.  I  wasn't  really 
hungry,  but  it  was  like  that  time  at  the  house,  eating  with  her. 
Mr.  and  Mrs.  Sharon  were  at  the  country  club,  too,  so  we  weren't 
disturbing  them  or  anything.  We  turned  off  the  lights  because 
there  was  plenty  of  light  from  the  fire  and  Mr.  Sharon's  one  of 
those  people  who  can't  stand  having  extra  lights  burning.  Dad's 
that  way  about  saving  string. 

It  was  quiet  and  lovely  and  the  firelight  made  shadows  on  the 
ceiling.  We  talked  a  lot  and  then  we  just  sat,  each  of  us  knowing 
the  other  was  there.  And  the  room  got  quieter  and  quieter  and 
I'd  told  her  about  the  game  and  I  didn't  feel  excited  or  jumpy  any 
more— just  rested  and  happy.  And  then  I  knew  by  her  breathing 
that  she  was  asleep  and  I  put  my  arm  around  her  for  just  a  minute. 
Because  it  was  wonderful  to  hear  that  quiet  breathing  and  know 
it  was  hers.  I  was  going  to  wake  her  in  a  minute.  I  didn't  realize 
how  tired  I  was  myself. 

And  then  we  were  back  in  that  house  in  the  country  and  it 
was  our  home  and  we  ought  to  have  been  happy.  But  something 
was  wrong  be'cause  there  still  wasn't  any  glass  in  the  windows 
and  a  wind  kept  blowing  through  them  and  we  tried  to  shut  the 
doors  but  they  wouldn't  shut.  It  drove  Helen  distracted  and  we 
were  both  running  through  the  house,  trying  to  shut  the  doors, 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

and  we  were  cold  and  afraid.  Then  the  sun  rose  outside  the 
windows,  burning  and  yellow  and  so  big  it  covered  the  sky.  And 
with  the  sun  was  a  horrible,  weeping  voice.  It  was  Mrs.  Sharon's 
saying,  "Oh,  my  God,  oh  my  God." 

I  didn't  know  what  had  happened,  for  a  minute,  when  I  woke. 
And  then  I  did  and  it  was  awful.  Mrs.  Sharon  was  saying  "Oh, 
Helen— I  trusted  you  .  .  ."  and  looking  as  if  she  were  going  to 
faint.  And  Mr.  Sharon  looked  at  her  for  a  minute  and  his  face 
was  horrible  and  he  said,  "Bred  in  the  bone,"  and  she  looked  as  if 
he'd  hit  her.  Then  he  said  to  Helen— 

I  don't  want  to  think  of  what  they  said.  I  don't  want  to  think 
of  any  of  the  things  they  said.  Mr.  Sharon  is  a  bad  man.  And  she 
is  a  bad  woman,  even  if  she  is  Helen's  mother.  All  the  same,  I 
could  stand  the  things  he  said  better  than  hers. 

I  don't  want  to  think  of  any  of  it.  And  it  is  all  spoiled  now. 
Everything  is  spoiled.  Miss  Eagles  saw  us  going  to  that  house  in 
the  country  and  she  said  horrible  things.  They  made  Helen  sick 
and  she  hasn't  been  back  at  school.  There  isn't  any  way  I  can  see 
her.  And  if  I  could,  it  would  be  spoiled.  We'd  be  thinking  about 
the  things  they  said. 

I  don't  know  how  many  of  the  people  know,  at  school.  But 
Tot  Pickens  passed  me  a  note.  And,  that  afternoon,  I  caught  him 
behind  his  house.  I'd  have  broken  his  nose  if  they  hadn't  pulled 
me  off.  I  meant  to.  Mother  cried  when  she  heard  about  it  and 
Dad  took  me  into  his  room  and  talked  to  me.  He  said  you  can't 
lick  the  whole  town.  But  I  will  anybody  like  Tot  Pickens.  Dad 
and  Mother  have  been  all  right.  But  they  say  things  about  Helen 
and  that's  almost  worse.  They're  for  me  because  I'm  their  son. 
But  they  don't  understand. 

I  thought  I  could  talk  to  Kerry  but  I  can't.  He  was  nice  but 
he  looked  at  me  such  a  funny  way.  I  don't  know— sort  of  im- 
pressed. It  wasn't  the  way  I  wanted  him  to  look.  But  he's  been 
decent.  Fie  comes  down  almost  every  weekend  and  we  play  catch 
in  the  yard. 

You  see,  I  just  go  to  school  and  back  now.  They  want  me  to 
go  with  the  gang,  the  way  I  did,  but  I  can't  do  that.  Not  after 
Tot.  Of  course  my  marks  are  a  lot  better  because  I've  got  more 
time  to  study  now.  But  it's  lucky  I  haven't  got  Miss  Eagles 
though  Dad  made  her  apologize.  I  couldn't  recite  to  her. 

I  think  Mr.  Grant  knows  because  he  ask^d  me  to  his  house 


Too  Early  Spring 

once  and  we  had  a  conversation.  Not  about  that,  though  I  was 
terribly  afraid  he  would.  He  showed  me  a  lot  of  his  old  college 
things  and  the  gold  football  he  wears  on  his  watch  chain.  He's 
got  a  lot  of  interesting  things. 

Then  we  got  talking,  somehow,  about  history  and  things  like 
that  and  how  times  had  changed.  Why,  there  were  kings  and 
queens  who  got  married  younger  than  Helen  and  me.  Only  now 
we  lived  longer  and  had  a  lot  more  to  learn.  So  it  couldn't  happen 
now.  "It's  civilization,"  he  said.  "And  all  civilization's  against 
nature.  But  I  suppose  we've  got  to  have  it.  Only  sometimes  it 
isn't  easy."  Well  somehow  or  other,  that  made  me  feel  less 
lonely.  Before  that  I'd  been  feeling  that  I  was  the  only  person 
on  earth  who'd  ever  felt  that  way. 

I'm  going  to  Colorado,  this  summer,  to  a  ranch,  and  next  year, 
I'll  go  East  to  school.  Mr.  Grant  says  he  thinks  I  can  make  the 
basketball  team,  if  I  work  hard  enough,  though  it  isn't  as  big  a 
game  in  the  East  as  it  is  with  us.  Well,  I'd  like  to  show  them 
something.  It  would  be  some  satisfaction.  He  says  not  to  be 
too  fresh  at  first,  but  I  won't  be  that. 

It's  a  boys'  school  and  there  aren't  even  women  teachers.  And, 
maybe,  afterwards,  I  could  be  a  professional  basketball  player  or 
something,  where  you  don't  have  to  see  women  at  all.  Kerry 
says  I'll  get  over  that;  but  I  won't.  They  all  sound  like  Mrs. 
Sharon  to  me  now,  when  they  laugh. 

They're  going  to  send  Helen  to  a  convent— I  found  out  that. 
Maybe  they'll  let  me  see  her  before  she  goes.  But,  if  we  do,  it 
will  be  all  wrong  and  in  front  of  people  and  everybody  pretend- 
ing. I  sort  of  wish  they  don't— though  I  want  to,  terribly.  When 
her  mother  took  her  upstairs  that  night— she  wasn't  the  same 
Helen.  She  looked  at  me  as  if  she  was  afraid  of  me.  And  no 
matter  what  they  do  for  us  now,  they  can't  fix  that. 


The  younger  child  sat  bolt  upright,  her  bedclothes  wrapped 
around  her. 

"If  you're  going  down  to  look  at  them,"  she  whispered  accus- 
ingly, "I'm  coming,  too!  And  Alice'll  catch  you." 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"She  won't  catch  me."  Her  elder  .sister's  voice  was  scornful. 
"She's  out  in  the  pantry,  helping.  With  the  man  from  Gray's." 

"All  the  same,  I'm  coming.  I  want  to  see  if  it's  ice  cream  in 
little  molds  or  just  the  smashed  kind  with  strawberries.  And,  if 
Alice  won't  catch  you,  she  won't  catch  me." 

"It'll  be  molds,"  said  the  other,  from  the  depths  of  experience, 
"Mother  always  has  molds  for  the  Whitehouses.  And  Mr.  White- 
house  sort  of  clicks  in  his  throat  and  talks  about  sweets  to  the 
sweet.  You'd  think  he'd  know  that's  dopey  but  he  doesn't.  And, 
anyhow,  it  isn't  your  turn." 

"It  never  is  my  turn,"  mourned  her  junior,  tugging  at  the  bed- 

"All  right,"  said  the  elder.  "If  you  ivant  to  go!  And  make  a 
noise.  And  then  they  hear  us  and  somebody  comes  up—" 

"Sometimes  they  bring  you  things,  when  they  come  up,"  said 
the  younger  dreamily.  "The  man  with  the  pink  face  did.  And  he 
said  I  was  a  little  angel." 

"Was  he  dopey!"  said  her  elder,  blightingly,  "and  anyhow, 
you  were  sick  afterwards  and  you  know  what  Mother  said 
about  it." 

The  younger  child  sighed,  a  long  sigh  of  defeat  and  resigna- 

"All  right,"  she  said.  "But  next  time  it  is  my  turn.  And  you 
tell  me  if  it's  in  molds."  Her  elder  nodded  as  she  stole  out  of  the 

At  the  first  turn  of  the  stairs,  a  small  landing  offered  an  ex- 
cellent observation  post,  provided  one  could  get  there  unper- 
ceived.  Jennifer  Sharp  reached  it  soundlessly  and,  curling  herself 
up  into  the  smallest  possible  space,  stared  eagerly  down  and 
across  into  the  dining  room. 

She  couldn't  see  the  whole  table.  But  she  saw  at  once  that  Mrs. 
Whitehouse  had  a  thing  like  a  silver  beetle  in  her  hair,  that 
Colonel  Crandall  looked  more  like  a  police  dog  than  ever,  and 
that  there  were  little  silver  baskets  of  pink  and  white  mints.  That 
meant  that  it  was  really  a  grand  dinner.  She  made  a  special  note 
of  the  ice  cream  for  Joan. 

Talk  and  laughter  drifted  up  to  her— strange  phrases  and  in- 
comprehensible jests  from  another  world,  to  be  remembered, 
puzzled  over,  and  analyzed  for  meaning  or  the  lack  of  it,  when 
she  and  Joan  were  alone.  She  hugged  her  knees,  she  was  having 


1  toe  story  About  tbe  /inteater 

a  good  time.  Pretty  soon,  Father  would  light  the  little  blue  flame 
under  the  mysterious  glass  machine  that  made  the  coffee.  She 
liked  to  see  him  do  that. 

She  looked  at  him  now,  appraisingly.  Colonel  Crandall  had 
fought  Germans  in  trenches  and  Mr.  Whitehouse  had  a  bank  to 
keep  his  money  in.  But  Father,  on  the  whole,  was  nicer  than 
either  of  them.  She  remembered,  as  if  looking  back  across  a  vast 
plain,  when  Father  and  Mother  had  merely  been  Father  and 
Mother— huge,  natural  phenomena,  beloved  but  inexplicable  as 
the  weather— unique  of  their  kind.  Now  she  was  older— she  knew 
that  other  people's  fathers  and  mothers  were  different.  Even  Joan 
knew  that,  though  Joan  was  still  a  great  deal  of  a  baby.  Jennifer 
felt  very  old  and  rather  benevolent  as  she  considered  herself  and 
her  parents  and  the  babyishness  of  Joan. 

Mr.  Whitehouse  was  talking,  but  Father  wanted  to  talk,  too 
—she  knew  that  from  the  quick  little  gesture  he  made  with  his 
left  hand.  Now  they  all  laughed  and  Father  leaned  forward. 

"That  reminds  me,"  he  was  saying,  "of  one  of  our  favorite 
stories—"  How  young  and  amused  his  face  looked,  suddenly! 

His  eldest  daughter  settled  back  in  the  shadow,  a  bored  but 
tolerant  smile  on  her  lips.  She  knew  what  was  coming. 

When  Terry  Farrell  and  Roger  Sharp  fell  in  love,  the  war  to 
end  war  was  just  over,  bobbed  hair  was  still  an  issue,  the  movies 
did  not  talk  and  women's  clothes  couldn't  be  crazier.  It  was  also 
generally  admitted  that  the  younger  generation  was  wild  but 
probably  sound  at  heart  and  that,  as  soon  as  we  got  a  businessman 
in  the  White  House,  things  were  going  to  be  all  right. 

As  for  Terry  and  Roger,  they  were  both  wild  and  sophisti- 
cated. They  would  have  told  you  so.  Terry  had  been  kissed  by 
several  men  at  several  dances  and  Roger  could  remember  the 
curious,  grimy  incident  of  the  girl  at  Fort  Worth.  So  that  showed 
you.  They  were  entirely  emancipated  and  free.  But  they  fell  in 
love  very  simply  and  unexpectedly— and  their  marriage  was  going 
to  be  like  no  other  marriage,  because  they  knew  all  the  right 
answers  to  all  the  questions,  and  had  no  intention  of  submitting  to 
the  commonplaces  of  life.  At  first,  in  fact,  they  were  going  to 
form  a  free  union— they  had  read  of  that,  in  popular  books  of 
the  period.  But,  somehow  or  other,  as  soon  as  Roger  started  to 
call,  both  families  began  to  get  interested.  They  had  no  idea  of 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

paying  the  slightest  attention  to  their  families.  But,  when  your 
family  happens  to  comment  favorably  on  the  man  or  girl  that  you 
are  in  love  with,  that  is  a  hard  thing  to  fight.  Before  they  knew  it, 
they  were  formally  engaged,  and  liking  it  on  the  whole,  though 
both  of  them  agreed  that  a  formal  engagement  was  an  outworn 
and  ridiculous  social  custom. 

They  quarreled  often  enough,  for  they  were  young,  and  a 
trifle  ferocious  in  the  vehemence  with  which  they  expressed  the 
views  they  knew  to  be  right.  These  views  had  to  do,  in  general, 
with  freedom  and  personality,  and  were  often  supported  by  quo- 
tations from  The  Golden  Bough.  Neither  of  them  had  read  The 
Golden  Bough  all  the  way  through,  but  both  agreed  that  it  was 
a  great  book.  But  the  quarrels  were  about  generalities  and  had 
no  sting.  And  always,  before  and  after,  was  the  sense  of  discov- 
ering in  each  other  previously  unsuspected  but  delightful  po- 
tentialities and  likenesses  and  beliefs. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  they  were  quite  a  well-suited  couple— 
"made  for  each  other,"  as  the  saying  used  to  go;  though  they 
would  have  hooted  at  the  idea.  They  had  read  the  minor  works 
of  Havelock  Ellis  and  knew  the  name  of  Freud.  They  didn't 
believe  in  people  being  "made  for  each  other"— they  were  too 

It  was  ten  days  before  the  date  set  for  their  marriage  that 
their  first  real  quarrel  occurred.  And  then,  unfortunately,  it 
didn't  stop  at  generalities. 

They  had  got  away  for  the  day  from  the  presents  and  their 
families,  to  take  a  long  walk  in  the  country,  with  a  picnic  lunch. 
Both,  in  spite  of  themselves,  were  a  little  solemn,  a  little  nervous. 
The  atmosphere  of  Approaching  Wedding  weighed  on  them 
both—when  their  hands  touched,  the  current  ran,  but,  when  they 
looked  at  each  other,  they  felt  strange.  Terry  had  been  shopping 
the  day  before— she  was  tired,  she  began  to  wish  that  Roger 
would  not  walk  so  fast.  Roger  was  wondering  if  the  sixth  usher 
—the  one  who  had  been  in  the  marines— would  really  turn  up. 
His  mind  also  held  dark  suspicions  as  to  the  probable  behavior 
of  the  best  man,  when  it  came  to  such  outworn  customs  as  rice 
and  shoes.  They  were  sure  that  they  were  in  love,  sure  now,  that 
they  wanted  to  be  married.  But  their  conversation  was  curiously 

The  lunch  did  something  for  them,  so  did  the  peace  of  being 


The  Story  About  the  Ante  at  er 

alone.  But  they  had  forgotten  the  salt  and  Terry  had  rubbed  her 
heel.  When  Roger  got  out  his  pipe,  there  was  only  tobacco  left 
for  half  a  smoke.  Still,  the  wind  was  cool  and  the  earth  pleasant 
and,  as  they  sat  with  their  backs  against  a  gray  boulder  in  the 
middle  of  a  green  field,  they  began  to  think  more  naturally.  The 
current  between  their  linked  hands  ran  stronger— in  a  moment  or 
two,  they  would  be  the  selves  they  had  always  known. 

It  was,  perhaps,  unfortunate  that  Roger  should  have  selected 
that  particular  moment  in  which  to  tell  the  anteater  story. 

He  knocked  out  his  pipe  and  smiled,  suddenly,  at  something  in 
his  mind.  Terry  felt  a  knock  at  her  heart,  a  sudden  sweetness  on 
her  tongue— how  young  and  amused  he  always  looked  when  he 
smiled!  She  smiled  back  at  him,  her  whole  face  changing. 

"What  is  it,  darling?"  she  said. 

He  laughed.  uOh  nothing,"  he  said.  "I  just  happened  to  remem- 
ber. Did  you  ever  hear  the  story  about  the  anteater?" 

She  shook  her  head. 

"Well,"  he  began.  "Oh,  you  must  have  heard  it— sure  you 
haven't?  Well,  anyway,  there  was  a  little  town  down  South  .  .  . 

"And  the  coon  said,  'Why,  lady,  that  ain't  no  anteater— that's 
Edward!'"  he  finished,  triumphantly,  a  few  moments  later.  He 
couldn't  help  laughing  when  he  had  finished— the  silly  tale  always 
amused  him,  old  as  it  was.  Then  he  looked  at  Terry  and  saw  that 
she  was  not  laughing. 

"Why,  what's  the  matter?"  he  said,  mechanically.  "Are  you 
cold,  dear,  or—" 

Her  hand,  which  had  been  slowly  stiffening  in  his  clasp,  now 
\vithdrew  itself  entirely  from  his. 

"No,"  she  said,  staring  ahead  of  her,  "I'm  all  right.  Thanks." 

He  looked  at  her.  There  was  somebody  there  he  had  never 
seen  before. 

"Well,"  he  said,  confusedly,  "well."  Then  his  mouth  set,  his 
jaw  stuck  out,  he  also  regarded  the  landscape. 

Terry  stole  a  glance  at  him.  It  was  terrible  and  appalling  to 
see  him  sitting  there,  looking  bleak  and  estranged.  She  wanted 
to  speak,  to  throw  herself  at  him,  to  say:  "Oh,  it's  all  my  fault- 
it's  all  my  fault!"  and  know  the  luxury  of  saying  it.  Then  she 
remembered  the  anteater  and  her  heart  hardened. 

It  was  not  even,  she  told  herself  sternly,  as  if  it  were  a  dirty 
story.  It  wasn't— and,  if  it  had  been,  weren't  they  always  going 

Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

to  be  frank  and  emancipated  with  each  other  about  things  like 
that?  But  it  was  just  the  kind  of  story  she'd  always  hated— cruel 
and— yes—vulgar.  Not  even  healthily  vulgar— vulgar  with  no  re- 
deeming adjective.  He  ought  to  have  known  she  hated  that  kind 
of  story.  He  ought  to  have  known! 

If  love  meant  anything,  according  to  the  books,  it  meant 
understanding  the  other  person,  didn't  it?  And,  if  you  didn't 
understand  them,  in  such  a  little  thing,  why,  what  was  life  going 
to  be  afterwards?  Love  was  like  a  new  silver  dollar— bright,  un- 
tarnished and  whole.  There  could  be  no  possible  compromises 
with  love. 

All  these  confused  but  vehement  thoughts  flashed  through  her 
mind.  She  also  knew  that  she  was  tired  and  wind-blown  and 
jumpy  and  that  the  rub  on  her  heel  was  a  little  red  spot  of  pain. 
And  then  Roger  was  speaking. 

"I'm  sorry  you  found  my  story  so  unamusing,"  he  said  in 
stiff  tones  of  injury  and  accusation.  "If  I'd  known  about  the  way 
you  felt,  I'd  have  tried  to  tell  a  funnier  one— even  if  we  did  say—" 

He  stopped,  his  frozen  face  turned  toward  her.  She  could  feel 
the  muscles  of  her  own  face  tighten  and  freeze  in  answer. 

"I  wasn't  in  the  least  shocked,  I  assure  you,"  she  said  in  the 
same,  stilted  voice.  "I  just  didn't  think  it  was  very  funny.  That's 

UI  get  you.  Well,  pardon  my  glove,"  he  said,  and  turned  to  the 

A  little  pulse  of  anger  began  to  beat  in  her  wrist.  Something 
was  being  hurt,  something  was  being  broken.  If  he'd  only  been 
Roger  and  kissed  her  instead  of  saying— well,  it  was  his  fault,  now. 

"No,  I  didn't  think  it  was  funny  at  all,"  she  said,  in  a  voice 
whose  sharpness  surprised  her,  "if  you  want  to  know.  Just  sort 
of  cruel  and  common  and— well,  the  poor  Negro—" 

"That's  right!"  he  said,  in  a  voice  of  bitter  irritation,  "pity  the 
coon!  Pity  everybody  but  the  person  who's  trying  to  amuse  you! 
I  think  it's  a  damn  funny  story— always  have— and— " 

They  were  both  on  their  feet  and  stabbing  at  each  other,  now. 

"And  it's  vulgar,"  she  was  saying,  hotly,  "plain  vulgar— not 
even  dirty  enough  to  be  funny.  Anteater  indeed!  Why,  Roger 
Sharp,  it's-" 

"Where's  that  sense  of  humor  you  were  always  talking  about?" 


The  Story  About  the  Anteater 

he  was  shouting.  "My  God,  what's  happened  to  you,  Terry?  I 
always  thought  you  were— and  here  you—" 

"Well,  we  both  of  us  certainly  seem  to  have  been  mistaken 
about  each  other,"  she  could  hear  her  strange  voice,  saying.  Then, 
even  more  dreadfully,  came  his  unfamiliar  accents,  "Well,  if 
that's  the  way  you  feel  about  it,  we  certainly  have." 

They  looked  at  each  other,  aghast.  "Here!"  she  was  saying, 
"here!  Oh,  Lord,  why  won't  it  come  off  my  finger?" 

"You  keep  that  on— do  you  hear,  you  damn  little  fool?"  he 
roared  at  her,  so  unexpectedly  that  she  started,  tripped,  caught 
her  shoe  in  a  cleft  of  rock,  fell  awkwardly,  and,  in  spite  of  all  her 
resolves,  burst  undignifiedly  and  conventionally  into  a  passion 
of  tears. 

Then  there  was  the  reconciliation.  It  took  place,  no  doubt,  on 
entirely  conventional  lines,  and  was  studded  with  "No,  it  was  my 
fault!  Say  it  was!"  but,  to  them  it  was  an  event  unique  in  history. 

Terry  thought  it  over  remorsefully,  that  evening,  waiting  for 
Roger.  Roger  was  right.  She  had  been  a  little  fool.  She  knew  the 
inexplicable  solace  of  feeling  that  she  had  been  a  little  fool. 

And  yet,  they  had  said  those  things  to  each  other,  and  meant 
them.  He  had  hurt  her,  she  had  actually  meant  to  hurt  him.  She 
stared  at  these  facts,  solemnly.  Love,  the  bright  silver  dollar.  Not 
like  the  commonplace  coins  in  other  people's  pockets.  But  some- 
thing special,  different— already  a  little,  ever-so-faintly  tarnished, 
as  a  pane  is  tarnished  by  breath? 

She  had  been  a  little  fool.  But  she  couldn't  quite  forget  the 

Then  she  was  in  Roger's  arms— and  knew,  with  utter  confi- 
dence, that  she  and  Roger  were  different.  They  were  always 
going  to  be  different.  Their  marriage  wouldn't  ever  be  like  any 
other  marriage  in  the  world. 

The  Sharps  had  been  married  for  exactly  six  years  and  five 
hours  and  Terry,  looking  across  the  table  at  the  clever,  intelli- 
gent face  of  her  affectionate  and  satisfactory  husband,  suddenly 
found  herself  most  desolately  alone. 

It  had  been  a  mistake  in  the  first  place— going  to  the  Lattimores 
for  dinner  on  their  own  anniversary.  Mr.  Lattimore  was  the 
head  of  Roger's  company— Mrs.  Lattimore's  invitation  had  almost 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

the  force  of  a  royal  command.  They  had  talked  it  over,  Roger 
and  she,  and  decided,  sensibly,  that  they  couldn't  get  out  of  it. 
But,  all  the  same,  it  had  been  a  mistake. 

They  were  rational,  modern  human  beings,  she  assured  herself 
ferociously.  They  weren't  like  the  horrible  married  couples  in 
the  cartoons— the  little  woman  asking  her  baffled  mate  if  he  re- 
membered what  date  it  was,  and  the  rest  of  it.  They  thought 
better  of  life  and  love  than  to  tie  either  of  them  to  an  artificial 
scheme  of  days.  They  were  different.  Nevertheless,  there  had 
beert  a  time  when  they  had  said  to  each  other,  with  foolish  smiles, 
"We've  been  married  a  week— or  a  month— or  a  year!  Just  think 
of  it!"  This  time  now  seemed  to  her,  as  she  looked  back  on  it 
coldly,  a  geologic  age  away. 

She  considered  Roger  with  odd  dispassionateness.  Yes,  there  he 
was— an  intelligent,  rising  young  man  in  his  first  thirties.  Not  par- 
ticularly handsome  but  indubitably  attractive— charming,  when 
he  chose— a  loyal  friend,  a  good  father,  a  husband  one  could  take 
pride  in.  And  it  seemed  to  her  that  if  he  made  that  nervous  little 
gesture  with  his  left  hand  again— or  told  the  anteater  story— she 
would  scream. 

It  was  funny  that  the  knowledge  that  you  had  lost  everything 
that  you  had  most  counted  upon  should  come  to  you  at  a  formal 
dinner  party,  while  you  talked  over  the  war  days  with  a  dark- 
haired  officer  whose  voice  had  the  honey  of  the  South  in  it.  Then 
she  remembered  that  she  and  Roger  had  first  discovered  their  love 
for  each  other,  not  upon  a  moon-swept  lawn,  but  in  the  fly- 
specked  waiting  room  of  a  minor  railroad  station— and  the  present 
event  began  to  seem  less  funny.  Life  was  like  that.  It  gave,  unex- 
pectedly, abruptly,  with  no  regard  for  stage  setting  or  the  prop- 
erties of  romance.  And,  as  unexpectedly  and  abruptly,  it  took 

While  her  mouth  went  on  talking,  a  part  of  her  mind  searched 
numbly  and  painfully  for  the  reasons  which  had  brought  this 
calamity  about.  They  had  loved  each  other  in  the  beginning- 
even  now,  she  was  sure  of  that.  They  had  tried  to  be  wise,  they 
had  not  broken  faith,  they  had  been  frank  and  gay.  No  deep  divi- 
sion of  nature  sundered  them— no  innate  fault  in  either,  spreading 
under  pressure,  to  break  the  walls  of  their  house  apart.  She  looked 
for  a  guilty  party  but  she  could  find  none.  There  was  only  a 
progression  of  days;  a  succession  of  tiny  events  that  followed  in 


The  Story  About  the  Ant  eater 

each  other's  footsteps  without  haste  or  rest.  That  was  all,  but 
that  seemed  to  have  been  enough.  And  Roger  was  looking  over 
at  her—with  that  same  odd,  exploring  glance  she  had  used  a 
moment  ago. 

What  remained?  A  house  with  a  little  boy  asleep  in  it,  a  custom 
of  life,  certain  habits,  certain  memories,  certain  hardships  lived 
through  together.  Enough  for  most  people,  perhaps?  They  had 
wanted  more  than  that. 

Something  said  to  her,  "Well  and  if— after  all— the  real  thing 
hasn't  even  come?"  She  turned  to  her  dinner  partner,  for  the 
first  time  really  seeing  him.  When  you  did  see  him,  he  was  quite 
a  charming  person.  His  voice  was  delightful.  There  was  nothing 
in  him  in  the  least  like  Roger  Sharp. 

She  laughed  and  saw,  at  the  laugh,  something  wake  in  his  eyes. 
He,  too,  had  not  been  really  conscious  of  her,  before.  But  he 
was,  now.  She  was  not  thirty,  yet— she  had  kept  her  looks.  She 
felt  old  powers,  old  states  of  mind  flow  back  to  her;  things  she 
had  thought  forgotten,  the  glamor  of  first  youth.  Somewhere,  on 
the  curve  of  a  dark  lake,  a  boat  was  drifting— a  man  was  talking  to 
her— she  could  not  see  his  face  but  she  knew  it  was  not  Roger's— 

She  was  roused  from  her  waking  dream  by  Mrs.  Lattimore's 

"Why,  Fd  never  have  dreamt!"  Mrs.  Lattimore  was  saying,  "I 
had  no  idea!"  She  called  down  the  table,  "George!  Do  you  know 
it's  these  people's  anniversary— so  sweet  of  them  to  come— and  I 
positively  had  to  worm  it  out  of  Mr.  Sharp!" 

Terry  went  hot  and  cold  all  over.  She  was  sensible,  she  was 
brokenhearted,  love  was  a  myth,  but  she  had  particularly  de- 
pended on  Roger  not  to  tell  anybody  that  this  was  their  anni- 
versary. And  Roger  had  told. 

She  lived  through  the  congratulations  and  the  customary  jokes 
about  "Well,  this  is  your  seventh  year  beginning— and  you  know 
what  they  say  about  the  seventh  year!"  She  even  lived  through 
Mrs.  Lattimore's  pensive  "Six  years!  Why,  my  dear,  I  never 
would  have  believed  it!  You're  children— positive  children!" 

She  could  have  bitten  Mrs.  Lattimore.  "Children!"  she  thought, 
indignantly,  "When  I— when  we— when  everything's  in  ruins!" 
She  "tried  to  freeze  Roger,  at  long  distance,  but  he  was  not  look- 
ing her  way.  And  then  she  caught  her  breath,  for  a  worse  fate 
was  in  store  for  her. 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

Someone,  most  unhappily,  had  brought  up  the  subject  of  pet 
animals.  She  saw  a  light  break  slowly  on  Roger's  face— she  saw 
him  lean  forward.  She  prayed  for  the  roof  to  fall,  for  time  to 
stop,  for  Mrs.  Lattimore  to  explode  like  a  Roman  candle  into 
green  and  purple  stars.  But,  even  as  she  prayed,  she  knew  that  it 
was  no  use.  Roger  was  going  to  tell  the  anteater  story. 

The  story  no  longer  seemed  shocking  to  her,  or  even  cruel. 
But  it  epitomized  all  the  years  of  her  life  with  Roger.  In  the 
course  of  those  years,  she  calculated  desperately,  she  had  heard 
that  story  at  least  a  hundred  times. 

Somehow— she  never  knew  how— she  managed  to  survive  the 
hundred-and-first  recital,  from  the  hideously  familiar,  "Well, 
there  was  a  little  town  down  South  .  .  ."  to  the  jubilant  "That's 
Edward!"  at  the  end.  She  even  summoned  up  a  fixed  smile  to 
meet  the  tempest  of  laughter  that  followed.  And  then,  merci- 
fully, Mrs.  Lattimore  was  giving  the  signal  to  rise. 

The  men  hung  behind— the  anteater  story  had  been  capped  by 
another.  Terry  found  herself,  unexpectedly,  tete-a-tete  with  Mrs. 

"My  dear,"  the  great  lady  was  saying,  "I'd  rather  have  asked 
you  another  night,  of  course,  if  I'd  known.  But  I  am  very  glad 
you  could  come  tonight.  George  particularly  wished  Mr.  Golden 
to  meet  your  brilliant  husband.  They  are  going  into  that  Western 
project  together,  you  know,  and  Tom  Golden  leaves  tomorrow. 
So  we  both  appreciate  your  kindness  in  coming." 

Terry  found  a  sudden  queer  pulse  of  warmth  through  the  cold 
fog  that  seemed  to  envelop  her.  "Oh,"  she  stammered,  "but 
Roger  and  I  have  been  married  for  years— and  we  were  delighted 
to  come-"  She  looked  at  the  older  woman.  "Tell  me,  though," 
she  said,  with  an  irrepressible  burst  of  confidence,  "doesn't  it  ever 
seem  to  you  as  if  you  couldn't  bear  to  hear  a  certain  story  again 
—not  if  you  died?" 

A  gleam  of  mirth  appeared  in  Mrs.  Lattimore's  eyes. 

"My  dear,"  she  said,  "has  George  ever  told  you  about  his  trip 
to  Peru?" 


"Well,  don't  let  him."  She  reflected.  "Or,  no-do  let  him,"  she 
said.  "Poor  George— he  does  get  such  fun  out  of  it.  And  you 
would  be  a  new  audience.  But  it  happened  fifteen  years  ago,  my 
dear,  and  I  think  I  could  repeat  every  word  after  him  verbatim, 


The  Story  About  the  Anteater 

once  he's  started.  Even  so— I  often  feel  as  if  he'd  never  stop." 

"And  then  what  do  you  do?"  said  Terry,  breathlessly— far  too 
interested  now  to  remember  tact. 

The  older  woman  smiled.  "I  think  of  the  story  I  am  going  to 
tell  about  the  guide  in  the  Uffizi  gallery,"  she  said.  "George  must 
have  heard  that  story  ten  thousand  times.  But  he's  still  alive." 

She  put  her  hand  on  the  younger  woman's  arm. 

"We're  all  of  us  alike,  my  dear,"  she  said.  "When  I'm  an  old 
lady  in  a  wheel  chair,  George  will  still  be  telling  me  about  Peru. 
But  then,  if  he  didn't,  I  wouldn't  know  he  was  George." 

She  turned  away,  leaving  Terry  to  ponder  over  the  words.  Her 
anger  was  not  appeased— her  life  still  lay  about  her  in  ruins.  But, 
when  the  dark  young  officer  came  into  the  room,  she  noticed  that 
his  face  seemed  rather  commonplace  and  his  voice  was  merely 
a  pleasant  voice. 

Mr.  Colden's  car  dropped  the  Sharps  at  their  house.  The  two 
men  stayed  at  the  gate  ror  a  moment,  talking— Terry  ran  in  to 
see  after  the  boy.  He  was  sleeping  peacefully  with  his  fists  tight 
shut;  he  looked  like  Roger  in  his  sleep.  Suddenly,  all  around  her 
were  the  familiar  sights  and  sounds  of  home.  She  felt  tired  and 
as  if  she  had  come  back  from  a  long  journey. 

She  went  downstairs.  Roger  was  just  coming  in.  He  looked 
tired,  too,  she  noticed,  but  exultant  as  well. 

"Golden  had  to  run,"  he  said  at  once.  "Left  good-by  for  you— 
hoped  you  wouldn't  mind— said  awfully  nice  things.  He's  really 
a  great  old  boy,  Terry.  And,  as  for  this  new  Western  business—" 

He  noticed  the  grave  look  on  her  face  and  his  own  grew  grave. 

"I  am  sorry,  darling,"  he  said.  "Did  you  mind  it  a  lot?  Well, 
I  did— but  it  couldn't  be  helped.  You  bet  your  life  that  next 

"Oh,  next  time—"  she  said,  and  kissed  him.  "Of  course  I  didn't 
mind.  We're  different,  aren't  we?" 

That  intelligent  matron,  Mrs.  Roger  Sharp,  now  seated  at  the 
foot  of  her  own  dinner  table,  from  time  to  time  made  the  appro- 
priate interjections— the  "Really? "s  and  "Yes  indeed"s  and  "That's 
what  I  always  tell  Roger"s— which  comprised  the  whole  duty  of 
a  hostess  in  Colonel  Crandall's  case.  Colonel  Crandall  was  sin- 
gularly restful— give  him  these  few  crumbs  and  he  could  be  de- 
pended upon  to  talk  indefinitely  and  yet  without  creating  a  con- 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

versational  desert  around  him.  Mrs.  Sharp  was  very  grateful  to 
him  at  the  moment.  She  wanted  to  retire  to  a  secret  place  in  her 
mind  and  observe  her  own  dinner  party,  for  an  instant,  as  a  spec- 
tator—and Colonel  Crandall  was  giving  her  the  chance. 

It  was  going  very  well  indeed.  She  had  hoped  for  it  from  the 
first,  but  now  she  was  sure  of  it  and  she  gave  a  tiny,  inaudible 
sigh  of  relief.  Roger  was  at  his  best— the  young  Durwards  had 
recovered  from  their  initial  shyness— Mr.  Whitehouse  had  not  yet 
started  talking  politics— the  souffle  had  been  a  success.  She  re- 
laxed a  little  and  let  her  mind  drift  off  upon  other  things. 

Tomorrow,  Roger  must  remember  about,  the  light  gray  suit, 
she  must  make  a  dental  appointment  for  Jennifer,  Mrs.  Quaritch 
must  be  dealt  with  tactfully  in  the  matter  of  the  committee.  It 
was  too  early  to  decide  about  camp  for  the  girls  but  Roger  Junior 
must  know  they  were  proud  of  his  marks,  and  if  Mother  intended 
to  give  up  her  trip  just  because  of  poor  old  Miss  Tompkins— 
well,  something  would  have  to  be  done.  There  were  also  the 
questions  of  the  new  oil  furnace,  the  School  board  and  the  Brcw- 
ster  wedding.  But  none  of  these  really  bothered  her— her  life  was 
always  busy— and,  at  the  moment,  she  felt  an  unwonted  desire  to 
look  back  into  Time. 

Over  twenty  years  since  the  Armistice.  Twenty  years.  And 
Roger  Junior  was  seventeen— and  she  and  Roger  had  been  married 
since  nineteen-twenty.  Pretty  soon  they  would  be  celebrating 
their  twentieth  anniversary.  It  seemed  incredible  but  it  was  true. 

She  looked  back  through  those  years,  seeing  an  ever-younger 
creature  with  her  own  face,  a  creature  that  laughed  or  wept  for 
forgotten  reasons,  ran  wildly  here,  sat  solemn  as  a  young  judge 
there.  She  felt  a  pang  of  sympathy  for  that  young  heedlessness, 
a  pang  of  humor  as  well.  She  was  not  old  but  she  had  been  so 
very  young. 

Roger  and  she— the  beginning— the  first  years— Roger  Junior's 
birth.  The  house  on  Edgehill  Road,  the  one  with  the  plate  rail 
in  the  dining  room,  and  crying  when  they  left  because  they'd 
never  be  so  happy  again,  but  they  had,  and  it  was  an  inconve- 
nient house.  Being  jealous  of  Milly  Baldwin— and  how  foolish!  — 
and  the  awful  country-club  dance  where  Roger  got  drunk;  and  it 
wasn't  awful  any  more.  The  queer,  piled  years  of  the  boom— 
the  crash— the  bad  time— Roger  coming  home  after  Tom  Colden's 
suicide  and  the  look  on  his  face.  Jennifer.  Joan.  Houses.  People. 


The  Story  About  the  Anteater 

Events.  And  always  the  headlines  in  the  papers,  the  voices  on  the 
radio,  dinning,  dinning  "No  security— trouble— disaster— no  se- 
curity." And  yet,  out  of  insecurity,  they  had  loved  and  made 
children.  Out  of  insecurity,  for  the  space  of  breath,  for  an  hour, 
they  had  built,  and  now  and  then  found  peace. 

No,  there's  no  guarantee,  she  thought.  There's  no  guarantee. 
When  you're  young,  you  think  there  is,  but  there  isn't.  And 
vet  I'd  do  it  over.  Pretty  soon  we'll  have  been  married  twenty 

"Yes,  that's  what  I  always  tell  Roger,"  she  said,  automatically. 
Colonel  Crandall  smiled  and  proceeded.  He  was  still  quite  hand- 
some, she  thought,  in  his  dark  way,  but  he  was  getting  very  bald. 
Roger's  hair  had  a  few  gray  threads  in  it  but  it  was  still  thick 
and  unruly.  She  liked  men  to  keep  their  hair.  She  remembered,  a 
long  while  ago,  thinking  something  or  other  about  Colonel  Cran- 
dall's  voice,  but  she  could  not  remember  what  she  had  thought. 

She  noticed  a  small  white  speck  on  the  curve  of  the  stairway 
but  said  nothing.  The  wrapper  was  warm  and,  if  Jennifer  wasn't 
noticed,  she  would  creep  back  to  bed  soon  enough.  It  was  dif- 
ferent with  Joan. 

Suddenly,  she  was  alert.  Mrs.  Durward,  at  Roger's  end  of  the 
table,  had  mentioned  the  Zoo.  She  knew  what  that  meant— Zoo— 
the  new  buildings— the  new  Housing  Commissioner— and  Mr. 
Whitehouse  let  loose  on  his  favorite  political  grievance  all 
through  the  end  of  dinner.  She  caught  Roger's  eye  for  a  miracu- 
lous instant.  Mr.  Whitehouse  was  already  clearing  his  throat. 
But  Roger  had  the  signal.  Roger  would  save  them.  She  saw  his 
[eft  hand  tapping  in  its  little  gesture— felt  him  suddenly  draw 
the  party  together.  How  young  and  amused  his  face  looked, 
under  the  candlelight! 

"That  reminds  me  of  one  of  our  favorite  stories,"  he  was  say- 
ing. She  sank  back  in  her  chair.  A  deep  content  pervaded  her. 
He  was  going  to  tell  the  anteater  story— and,  even  if  some  of  the 
people  had  heard  it,  they  would  have  to  laugh,  he  always  told 
it  so  well.  She  smiled  in  anticipation  of  the  triumphant  "That's 
Edward!"  And,  after  that,  if  Mr.  Whitehouse  still  threatened,  she 
iierself  would  tell  the  story  about  Joan  and  the  watering  pot. 

Jennifer  crept  back  into  the  darkened  room. 
"Well?"  said  an  eager  whisper  from  the  other  bed. 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

Jennifer  drew  a  long  breath.  The  memory  of  the  lighted  dinner 
table  rose  before  her,  varicolored,  glittering,  portentous— a  stately 
omen— a  thing  of  splendor  and  mystery,  to  be  pondered  upon 
for  days.  How  could  she  ever  make  Joan  see  it  as  she  had  seen  it? 
And  Joan  was  such  a  baby,  anyway. 

"Oh— nobody  saw  me,"  she  said,  in  a  bored  voice.  "But  it  was 
in  molds,  thats  all— oh  yes— and  Father  told  the  antcater  story 


When  he  said  good  night  to  his  son  and  Tom  Drury  and  the 
rest  of  them,  Lane  Parrington  walked  down  the  steps  of  the  Leaf 
Club  and  stood,  for  a  moment,  breathing  in  the  night  air.  He  had 
made  the  speech  they'd  asked  him  to  make,  and  taken  pains 
with  it,  too— but  now  he  was  wondering  whether  it  wasn't  the 
same  old  graduate's  speech  after  all.  He  hadn't  meant  it  to  be  so, 
but  you  ran  into  a  lingo,  once  you  started  putting  thoughts  on 
paper— you  began  to  view  with  alarm  and  talk  about  imperiled 
bulwarks  and  the  American  way  of  life. 

And  yet  he'd  been  genuinely  pleased  when  the  invitation  came 
—and  they'd  asked  him  three  months  ahead.  That  meant  some- 
thing, even  to  the  Lane  Parrington  of  United  Investments— it  was 
curious  how  old  bonds  held.  He  had  been  decorated  by  two 
foreign  governments  and  had  declined  a  ministry— there  was  the 
place  in  Virginia,  the  place  on  Long  Island,  the  farm  in  Vermont 
and  the  big  apartment  on  the  river.  There  were  the  statements 
issued  when  sailing  for  Europe  and  the  photographs  and  articles 
in  news-weeklies  and  magazines.  And  yet  he  had  been  pleased 
when  they  asked  him  to  speak  at  the  annual  dinner  of  an  under- 
graduate club  in  his  own  college.  Of  course,  the  Leaf  was  a  little 
different,  as  all  Leaf  members  knew.  When  he  had  been  a  new 
member,  as  his  son  was  now,  thfe  speech  had  been  made  by  a 
Secretary  of  State. 

Well,  he'd  done  well  enough,  he  supposed— at  least  Ted  had 
come  up,  afterward,  a  little  shyly,  and  said,  "Well,  Dad,  you're 
quite  an  orator."  But,  once  or  twice,  in  the  course  of  the  speech, 
he  had  caught  Ted  fiddling  with  his  coffee  spoon.  They  were 


Schooner  Fairchild's  Class 

almost  always  too  long— those  speeches  by  graduates—he  had  tried 
to  remember  that.  But  he  couldn't  help  running  a  little  overtime 
—not  after  he'd  got  up  and  seen  them  waiting  there.  They  were 
only  boys,  of  course,  but  boys  who  would  soon  be  men  with 
men's  responsibilities— he  had  even  made  a  point  of  that. 

One  of  the  things  about  the  Leaf— you  got  a  chance  of  hear- 
ing what— well,  what  really  important  men  thought  of  the  state 
of  the  world  and  the  state  of  the  nation.  They  could  get  a  lot 
from  professors  but  hardly  that.  So,  when  a  sensible  fellow  got 
up  to  explain  what  sensible  men  really  thought  about  this  busi- 
ness at  Washington— why,  damn  it,  nobody  was  going  to  ring  a 
gong  on  him!  And  they'd  clapped  him  well,  at  the  end,  and  Ted's 
face  had  looked  relieved.  They  always  clapped  well,  at  the  end. 

Afterward,  he  had  rather  hoped  to  meet  Ted's  friends  and  get 
in  a  little  closer  touch  with  them  than  he  did  at  the  place  in  Vir- 
ginia or  the  place  on  Long  Island  or  the  apartment  in  New  York. 
He  saw  them  there,  of  course— they  got  in  cars  and  out  of  cars, 
they  dressed  and  went  to  dances,  they  played  on  the  tennis  courts 
and  swam  in  the  pool.  They  were  a  good  crowd— a  typical  Leaf 
crowd,  well-exercised  and  well-mannered.  They  were  polite  to 
Cora  and  polite  to  him.  He  offered  them  cigars  now  and  then; 
during  the  last  two  years  he  offered  them  whisky  and  soda.  They 
listened  to  what  he  had  to  say  and,  if  he  told  a  good  story,  they 
usually  laughed  at  it.  They  played  tennis  with  him,  occasionally, 
and  said,  "Good  shot,  sir!  "—afterward,  they  played  harder  tennis. 
One  of  them  was  Ted,  his  son,  well-mannered,  well-exercised,  a 
member  of  the  Leaf.  He  could  talk  to  Ted  about  college  athletics, 
the  college  curriculum,  his  allowance,  the  weather,  the  virtues  of 
capitalism  and  whether  to  get  a  new  beach  wagon  this  summer. 
Now,  to  these  subjects  was  added  the  Leaf  and  the  virtues  of 
the  Leaf.  He  could  talk  to  Ted  about  any  number  of  things. 

Nevertheless,  sometimes  when  the  annual  dinner  was  over, 
there  would  be  a  little  group  at  the  Leaf  around  this  graduate  or 
that.  He  remembered  one  such  group  his  senior  year,  around  a 
sharp-tongued  old  man  with  hooded  eyes.  The  ex-senator  was  old 
and  broken,  but  they'd  stayed  up  till  two  while  his  caustic  voice 
made  hay  of  accepted  catchwords.  Well,  he  had  met  Ted's 
friends  and  remembered  most  of  their  names.  They  had  con- 
gratulated him  on  his  speech  and  he  had  drunk  a  highball  with 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

them.  It  had  all  been  in  accord  with  the  best  traditions  of  the 
Leaf  but  it  hadn't  lasted  very  long. 

For  a  moment,  indeed,  he  had  almost  gotten  into  an  argument 
with  one  of  them— the  pink-faced,  incredibly  youthful  one  with 
the  glasses  who  was  head  of  the  Student  Union— they  hadn't  had 
student  unions  in  his  time.  He  had  been  answering  a  couple  of 
questions  quite  informally,  using  slang,  and  the  pink-faced  youth 
had  broken  in  with,  "But,  look  here,  sir— I  mean,  that  was  a  good 
speech  you  made  from  the  conservative  point  of  view  and  all 
that— but  when  you  talk  about  labor's  being  made  responsible, 
just  what  do  you  mean  and  how  far  do  you  go?  Do  you  mean 
you  want  to  scrap  the  Wagner  Act  or  amend  it  or  what?" 

But  then  the  rest  of  them  had  said,  "Oh,  don't  mind  Stu— he's 
our  communist.  Skip  it,  Stu— how's  dialectic  materialism  today?1' 
and  it  had  passed  off  in  kidding.  Lane  Parrington  felt  a  little  sorry 
about  that—he  would  have  enjoyed  a  good  argument  with  an 
intelligent  youngster— he  was  certainly  broad-ririnded  enough  for 
that.  But,  instead,  he'd  declined  another  highball  and  said,  well, 
he  supposed  he  ought  to  be  getting  back  to  the  inn.  It  had  all 
been  very  well-mannered  and  in  accord  with  the  best  traditions 
of  the  Leaf.  He  wondered  how  the  old  ex-senator  had  got  them 
to  talk. 

Ted  had  offered  to  walk  along  with  him,  of  course,  and, 
equally,  of  course,  he  had  declined.  Now  he  stood  for  a  moment 
on  the  sidewalk,  wondering  whether  he  ought  to  look  in  at  class 
headquarters  before  going  back  to  the  inn.  He  ought  to,  he  sup- 
posed—after all,  it  was  his  thirtieth  reunion.  It  would  be  full  of 
cigar  smoke  and  voices  and  there  would  be  a  drunk  from  another 
class— there  was  always,  somehow  or  other,  a  drunk  from  another 
class  who  insisted  on  leading  cheers.  And  Schooner  Fairchild,  the 
class  funny  man,  would  be  telling  stories— the  one  about  the 
Kickapoo  chief,  the  one  about  President  Dodge  and  the  tele- 
phone. As  it  was  in  the  beginning,  is  now  and  ever  shall  be.  He 
didn't  dislike  Schooner  Fairchild  any  more— you  couldn't  dislike 
a  man  who  had  wasted  his  life.  But  Schooner,  somehow,  had 
never  seemed  conscious  of  that. 

Yes,  he'd  go  to  class  headquarters— he'd  go,  if  for  no  other 
reason  than  to  prove  that  he  did  not  dislike  Schooner  Fairchild. 
He  started  walking  down  Club  Row.  There  were  twelve  of  the 
clubhouses  now— there  had  been  only  eight  in  his  time.  They  all 


Schooner  Fairchild's  Class 

looked  very  much  alike,  even  the  new  ones—it  took  an  initiated 
eye  to  detect  the  slight  enormous  differences— to  know  that 
Wampum,  in  spite  of  its  pretentious  lanterns,  was  second-rate 
and  would  always  be  second-rate,  while  Abbey,  small  and  dingy, 
ranked  with  Momus  and  the  Leaf.  Parrington  stood  still,  re- 
living the  moment  of  more  than  thirty  years  ago  when  he'd 
gotten  the  bid  from  Wampum  and  thought  he  would  have  to 
accept  it.  It  hadn't  been  necessary— the  Leaf  messenger  had 
knocked  on  his  door  at  just  three  minutes  to  nine.  But  whenever 
he  passed  the  Wampum  house  he  remembered.  For  almost  an 
hour,  it  had  seemed  as  if  the  destined  career  of  Lane  Parring- 
ton wasn't  going  to  turn  out  right  after  all. 

The  small  agonies  of  youth— they  were  unimportant,  of  course, 
but  they  left  a  mark.  And  he'd  had  to  succeed— he'd  had  to  have 
the  Leaf,  just  as  later  on,  he'd  had  to  have  money— he  wasn't  a 
Schooner  Fairchild,  to  take  things  as  they  came.  You  were  geared 
like  that  or  you  weren't— if  you  weren't,  you  might  as  well  stay 
in  Emmetsburg  and  end  up  as  a  harried  high  school  principal 
with  sick  headaches  and  a  fine  Spencerian  handwriting,  as  his 
father  had.  But  he  had  wanted  to  get  out  of  Emmetsburg  the 
moment  he  had  realized  there  were  other  places  to  go. 

He  remembered  a  look  through  a  microscope  and  a  lashing, 
tailed  thing  that  swam.  There  were  only  two  classes  of  people, 
the  wigglcrs  and  the  ones  who  stood  still— he  should  have  made 
his  speech  on  that— it  would  have  been  a  better  speech.  And  the 
ones  who  stood  still  didn't  like  the  wigglers— that,  too,  he  knew, 
from  experience.  If  they  saw  a  wiggler  coining,  they  closed  ranks 
and  opposed  their  large,  well-mannered  inertia  to  the  brusque,  ill- 
mannered  life.  Later  on,  of  course,  they  gave  in  gracefully,  but 
without  real  liking.  He  had  made  the  Leaf  on  his  record— and  a 
very  good  record  it  had  had  to  be.  He  had  even  spent  three  pain- 
ful seasons  with  the  track  squad,  just  to  demonstrate  that  desir- 
able all-aroundness  that  was  one  of  the  talking  points.  And  even 
so,  they  had  smelled  it— they  had  known,  instinctively,  that  he 
wasn't  quite  their  kind.  Tom  Drury,  for  instance,  had  always 
been  pleasant  enough— but  Tom  Drury  had  always  made  him  feel 
that  he  was  talking  a  little  too  much  and  a  little  too  loud.  Tom 
Drury,  who,  even  then,  had  looked  like  a  magnificent  sheep.  But 
he  had  also  been  class  president,  and  the  heir  to  Drury  and  Son. 
And  yet,  they  all  liked  Schooner  Fairchild— they  liked  him  still. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

And  here  was  the  end  of  Club  Row,  and  the  Momus  House. 
He  stopped  and  took  out  a  cigar.  It  was  silly  to  fight  old  battles, 
especially  when  they  were  won.  If  they  asked  the  Drurys  to 
dinner  now,  the  Drurys  came—he'd  been  offered  and  declined  a 
partnership  in  Drury  and  Son.  But  he  had  helped  Tom  out  with 
some  of  their  affiliates  and  Tom  had  needed  help— Tom  would 
always  be  impressive,  of  course,  but  it  took  more  than  impres- 
siveness  to  handle  certain  things.  And  now  Ted  was  coming  along 
—and  Ted  was  sound  as  a  bell.  So  sound  he  might  marry  one  of 
the  Drury  daughters,  if  he  wanted— though  that  was  Ted's  busi- 
ness. He  wondered  if  he  wanted  Ted  to  marry  young.  He  had 
done  so  himself— on  the  whole,  it  had  been  a  mistake. 

Funny,  how  things  mixed  in  your  mind.  As  always,  when  he 
remembered  Dorothy,  there  was  the  sharp,  sweet  smell  of  her 
perfume;  then  the  stubborn,  competent  look  of  her  hands  on  the 
wheel  of  a  car.  They  had  been  too  much  alike  to  have  married 
—lucky  they'd  found  it  out  in  time.  She  had  let  him  keep  the 
child— of  course  he  would  have  fought  for  it  anyway— but  it  was 
considered  very  modern  in  those  days.  Then  the  war  had  washed 
over  and  obliterated  a  great  deal— afterward,  he  had  married  Cora. 
And  that  had  worked  out  as  it  should— Ted  was  fond  of  her  and 
she  treated  him  with  just  the  right  shade  of  companionableness. 
Most  things  worked  out  in  the  end.  He  wondered  if  Dorothy 
had  gotten  what  she  wanted  at  last— he  supposed  she  had,  with 
her  Texan.  But  she'd  died  in  a  hospital  at  Galveston,  ten  years 
ago,  trying  to  have  the  Texan's  child,  so  he  couldn't  ask  her  now. 
They  had  warned  her  about  having  more  children— but,  as  soon 
as  you  warned  Dorothy  about  anything,  that  was  what  she 
wanted  to  do.  He  could  have  told  them.  But  the  Texan  was  one 
of  those  handsome,  chivalrous  men. 

Strange,  that  out  of  their  two  warring  ambitions  should  have 
come  the  sound,  reliable,  healthy  Ted.  But,  no,  it  wasn't  strange 
—he  had  planned  it  as  carefully  as  one  could,  and  Cora  had  helped 
a  great  deal.  Cora  never  got  out  of  her  depth  and  she  had  a  fine 
social  sense.  And  the  very  best  nurses  and  schools  from  the  very 
first— and  there  you  were!  You  did  it  as  you  ran  a  business— picked 
the  right  people  and  gave  them  authority.  He  had  hardly  ever 
had  to  interfere  himself. 

There  would  be  a  great  deal  of  money— but  that  could  be  taken 
care  of— there  were  ways.  There  were  trust  funds  and  founda- 


Schooner  Fairchild's  Class 

tions  and  clever  secretaries.  And  Ted  need  never  realize  it.  There 
was  no  reason  he  should— no  reason  in  the  least.  Ted  could  think 
he  was  doing  it  all. 

He  pulled  hard  on  his  cigar  and  started  to  walk  away.  For  the 
door  of  the  Momus  Club  had  suddenly  swung  open,  emitting 
a  gush  of  light  and  a  small,  chubby,  gray-haired  figure  with  a 
turned-up  nose  and  a  jack-o'-lantern  grin.  It  stood  on  the  steps 
for  a  moment,  saying  good  night  a  dozen  times  and  laughing. 
Lane  Parrington  walked  fast— but  it  was  no  use.  He  heard  patter- 
ing footsteps  behind  him— a  voice  cried,  "Ought-Eight!"  with 
conviction,  then,  "Lane  Parrington,  b'gosh!"  He  stopped  and 

"Oh,  hello,  Schooner,"  he  said,  unenthusiastically.  "Your  din- 
ner over,  too?" 

"Oh,  the  boys'll  keep  it  up  till  three,"  said  Schooner  Fairchild, 
mopping  his  pink  brow.  "But,  after  an  hour  and  a  half,  I  told 
them  it  was  time  they  got  some  other  poor  devil  at  the  piano. 
I'm  not  as  young  as  I  was."  He  panted,  comically,  and  linked 
arms  with  Lane  Parrington.  "Class  headquarters?"  he  said.  "I 
shouldn't  go— Minnie  will  scalp  me.  But  I  will." 

"Well,"  said  Lane  Parrington  uncomfortably— he  hated  having 
his  arm  held,  "I  suppose  we  ought  to  look  in." 

"Duty,  Mr.  Easy,  always  duty,"  said  Schooner  Fairchild  and 
chuckled.  "Hey,  don't  walk  so  fast— an  old  man  can't  keep  up 
with  you."  He  stopped  and  mopped  his  brow  again.  "By  the 
way,"  he  said,  "that's  a  fine  boy  of  yours,  Lane." 

"Oh,"  said  Lane  Parrington  awkwardly.  "Thanks.  But  I  didn't 

"Saw  something  of  him  last  summer,"  said  Schooner  Fair- 
child  cheerfully.  "Sylvia  brought  him  around  to  the  house.  He 
could  have  a  rather  nice  baritone,  if  he  wanted." 

"Baritone?"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "Sylvia?" 

"Eldest  daughter  and  pride  of  the  Fairchild  chateau,"  said 
Schooner  Fairchild,  slurring  his  words  by  a  tiny  fraction.  "She 
collects  'em— not  always— always  with  Father's  approval.  But 
your  boy's  a  nice  boy.  Serious,  of  course."  He  chuckled  again, 
it  seemed  to  Lane  Parrington  maddeningly.  "Oh,  the  sailor  said 
to  the  admiral,  and  the  admiral  said  he—"  he  chanted.  "Remem- 
ber that  one,  Lane?" 

"No,"  said  Lane  Parrington. 


Stephen  Vincent  Bentt 

"That's  right,"  said  Schooner  Fairchild,  amiably.  "Stupid  of 
me.  I  thought  for  a  minute,  you'd  been  in  the  quartet.  But  that 
was  dear  old  Pozzy  Banks.  Poor  Pozzy— he  never  could  sing  'The 
Last  Rose  of  Summer'  properly  till  he  was  as  drunk  as  an  owl. 
A  man  of  great  talents.  I  hoped  he'd  be  here  this  time  but  he 
couldn't  make  it.  He  wanted  to  come,"  he  hummed,  "but  he 
didn't  have  the  fare  .  .  ." 

"That's  too  bad,"  said  Lane  Parrington,  seriously.  "And  yet, 
with  business  picking  up  .  .  ." 

Schooner  Fairchild  looked  at  him  queerly,  for  an  instant.  "Oh, 
bless  you!"  he  said.  "Pozzy  never  had  a  nickel.  But  he  was  fun." 
He  tugged  at  Lane  Parrington's  arm,  as  they  turned  a  corner  and 
saw  an  electric  sign— 1908— above  the  door.  "Well,  here  we  go!" 
he  said. 

An  hour  later,  Lane  Parrington  decided  that  it  was  just  as  he 
had  expected.  True,  the  drunk  from  the  unidentified  class  had 
gone  home.  But  others,  from  other  classes,  had  arrived.  And 
Schooner  Fairchild  was  sitting  at  the  piano. 

He  himself  was  wedged  uncomfortably  at  the  back  of  the 
room  between  Ed  Runner  and  a  man  whose  name,  he  thought, 
was  either  Ferguson  or  Whitelaw,  but  who,  in  any  case,  addressed 
him  as  "Lane,  old  boy."  This  made  conversation  difficult,  for 
it  was  hard  to  call  his  neighbor  either  "Fergy"  or  "Whitey" 
without  being  sure  of  his  name.  On  the  other  hand,  conversa- 
tion with  Ed  Runner  was  equally  difficult,  for  that  gentleman 
had  embarked  upon  an  interminable  reminiscence  whose  point 
turned  upon  the  exact  location  of  Bill  Webley's  room  Sophomore 
year.  As  Lane  Parrington  had  never  been  in  any  of  Bill  Webley's 
rooms,  he  had  very  little  to  add  to  the  discussion.  He  was  also 
drinking  beer,  which  never  agreed  with  him,  and  the  cigar 
smoke  stung  his  eyes.  And  around  the  singer  and  the  piano 
boiled  and  seethed  a  motley  crew  of  graduates  of  all  classes— 
the  Roman  togas  of  1913,  the  convict  stripes  of  1935,  t^ie  s'lorts 
and  explorers'  helmets  of  1928.  For  the  news  had  somehow  gone 
around,  through  the  various  class  headquarters,  that  Schooner 
Fairchild  was  doing  his  stuff— and,  here  and  there,  among  the 
crowd,  were  undergraduates,  who  had  heard  from  brothers  and 
uncles  about  Schooner  Fairchild,  but  had  never  seen  him  before 
in  the  flesh. 

He  had  told  the  story  of  the  Kickapoo  chief,  he  had  given 


Schooner  Fairchild's  Class 

the  imitation  of  President  Dodge  and  the  telephone.  Both  these 
and  other  efforts,  Lane  Parrington  noted  wonderingly,  had  been 
received  with  tumultuous  cheers.  Now  he  played  a  few  chords 
and  swung  around  on  the  piano  stool. 

"I  shall  now,"  he  said,  with  his  cherubic  face  very  solemn, 
"emit  my  positively  last  and  final  number—an  imitation  of  dear 
old  Pozzy  Banks,  attempting  to  sing  'The  Last  Rose  of  Summer' 
while  under  the  influence  of  wine.  Not  all  of  you  have  been 
privileged  to  know  dear  old  Pozzy— a  man  of  the  most  varied 
and  diverse  talents— it  is  our  great  regret  that  he  is  not  with  us 
tonight.  But  for  those  of  you  who  were  not  privileged  to  know 
Pozzy,  may  I  state  as  an  introduction  that  dear  old  Pozzy  is  built 
something  on  the  lines  of  a  truck,  and  that,  when  under  the  in- 
fluence of  wine,  it  was  his  custom  to  sing  directly  into  his  hat, 
which  he  held  out  before  him  like  a  card  tray.  We  will  now 
begin."  He  whirled  round,  struck  a  few  lugubrious  notes  and 
began  to  sing. 

It  was,  as  even  Lane  Parrington  had  to  admit,  extremely  funny. 
He  heard  himself  joining  in  the  wild,  deep  roar  of  laughter  that 
greeted  the  end  of  the  first  verse— he  was  annoyed  at  himself 
but  he  could  not  help  it.  By  some  magic,  by  some  trick  of  ges- 
ture and  voice,  the  chubby,  bald-headed  figure  had  suddenly  be- 
come a  large  and  lugubrious  young  man— a  young  man  slightly 
under  the  influence  of  wine  but  still  with  the  very  best  inten- 
tions, singing  sentimentally  and  lugubriously  into  his  hat.  It  was 
a  trick  and  an  act  and  a  sleight  of  hand  not  worth  learning— but 
it  did  not  fail  in  its  effect.  Lane  Parrington  found  himself  laugh- 
ing till  he  ached— beside  him,  the  man  named  either  Ferguson  or 
Whitclaw  was  whooping  and  gasping  for  breath. 

"And  now,"  said  Schooner  Fairchild,  while  they  were  still 
laughing,  "let  somebody  play  who  can  play!"  And,  magically 
crooking  his  finger,  he  summoned  a  dark-haired  undergraduate 
from  the  crowd,  pushed  him  down  on  the  piano  stool,  and,  some- 
how or  other,  slipped  through  the  press  and  vanished,  while  they 
were  still  calling  his  name. 

Lane  Parrington,  a  little  later,  found  himself  strolling  up  and 
down  the  dejected  back  yard  of  class  headquarters.  They  had 
put  up  a  tent,  some  iron  tables  and  a  number  of  paper  lanterns, 
but,  at  this  hour,  the  effect  was  not  particularly  gay.  It  must 
be  very  late  and  he  ought  to  go  to  bed.  But  he  did  not  look  at 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

his  watch.  He  was  trying  to  think  about  certain  things  in  his  life 
and  get  them  into  a  proportion.  It  should  be  a  simple  thing  to 
do,  as  simple  as  making  money,  but  it  was  not. 

Ted—Dorothy—the  Leaf— Emmetsburg— Schooner  Fairchild— 
Tom  Drury— the  place  in  Virginia  and  the  mean  house  at  Em- 
metsburg—United  Investments  and  a  sleight-of-hand  trick  at  a 
tiny  piano.  He  shuffled  the  factors  of  the  equation  about;  they 
should  add  up  to  a  whole.  And,  if  they  did,  he  would  be  will- 
ing to  admit  it;  he  told  himself  that.  Yes,  even  if  the  final  sum 
proved  him  wrong  for  years— that  had  always  been  one  of  the 
factors  of  his  own  success,  his  knowing  just  when  to  cut  a  loss. 

A  shaky  voice  hummed  behind  him: 

"Oh,  the  ship's  cat  said  to  the  cabin  boy, 
To  the  cabin  boy  said  she  .  .  ." 

He  turned— it  was  Schooner  Fairchild  and,  he  thought  at  first, 
Schooner  Fairchild  was  very  drunk.  Then  he  saw  the  man's  lips 
were  gray,  caught  him  and  helped  him  into  one  of  the  iron 

"Sorry,"  wheezed  Schooner  Fairchild.  "Must  have  run  too 
fast,  getting  away  from  the  gang.  Damn'  silly— left  my  medicine 
at  the  inn." 

"Here— wait— "  said  Lane  Parrington,  remembering  the  flask 
of  brandy  in  his  pocket.  He  uncorked  it  and  held  it  to  the  other 
man's  lips.  "Can  you  swallow?"  he  said  solicitously. 

An  elfish,  undefeated  smile  lit  Schooner  Fairchild's  face. 
"Always  could,  from  a  child,"  he  gasped.  "Never  ask  a  Fair- 
child  twice."  He  drank  and  said,  incredibly,  it  seemed  to  Lane 
Parrington,  "Napoleon  .  .  .  isn't  it?  Sir,  you  spoil  me."  His  color 
began  to  come  back.  "Better,"  he  said. 

"Just  stay  there,"  said  Lane  Parrington.  He  dashed  back  into 
club  headquarters— deserted  now,  he  noticed,  except  for  the 
gloomy  caretaker  and  the  man  called  Ferguson  or  Whitelaw,  who 
was  ungracefully  asleep  on  a  leather  couch.  Efficiently,  he  found 
glasses,  ice,  soda,  plain  water  and  ginger  ale,  and  returned,  his 
hands  full  of  these  trophies,  to  find  Schooner  Fairchild  sitting 
up  in  his  chair  and  attempting  to  get  a  cigarette  from  the  pocket 
of  his  coat. 

His  eyes  twinkled  as  he  saw  Lane  Parrington's  collection  of 
glassware.  "My!"  he  said/  "We  are  going  to  make  a  night  of  it. 
Great  shock  to  me— never  thought  it  of  you,  Lane." 


Schooner  Fairchild' s  Class 

"Hadn't  I  better  get  a  doctor?"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "There's 
a  telephone—" 

"Not  a  chance,"  said  Schooner  Fairchild.  "It  would  worry 
Minnie  sick.  She  made  me  promise  before  I  came  up  to  take 
care.  It's  just  the  old  pump—misses  a  little  sometimes.  But  I'll  be 
all  right,  now— right  as  a  trivet,  whatever  a  trivet  is.  Just  give  me 
another  shot  of  Napoleon." 

"Of  course,"  said  Lane  Parrington,  "but—" 

"Brandy  on  beer,  never  fear,"  said  Schooner  Fairchild.  "Fair- 
child's  Medical  Maxims,  Number  One.  And  a  cigarette  .  .  . 
thanks."  He  breathed  deeply.  "And  there  we  are,"  he  said,  with  a 
smile.  "Just  catches  you  in  the  short  ribs,  now  and  then.  But, 
when  it's  over,  it's  over.  You  ought  to  try  a  little  yourself,  Lane 
—damn'  silly  performance  of  mine  and  you  look  tired." 

"Thanks,"  said  Lane  Parrington,  "I  will."  He  made  himself, 
neatly,  an  efficient  brandy  and  soda  and  raised  the  glass  to  his 
lips.  "Well-er— here's  luck,"  he  said,  a  little  stiffly. 

"Luck!"  nodded  Schooner  Fairchild.  They  both  drank.  Lane 
Parrington  looked  at  the  pleasant,  undefeated  face. 

"Listen,  Schooner,"  said  Lane  Parrington,  suddenly  and 
harshly,  "if  you  had  the  whole  works  to  shoot  over  again—"  He 

"That's  the  hell  of  a  question  to  ask  a  man  at  three  o'clock  in 
the  morning,"  said  Schooner  equably.  "Why?" 

"Oh,  I  don't  know,"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "But  that  stuff  at 
the  piano  you  did— well,  how  did  you  do  it?"  His  voice  was 
oddly  ingenious,  for  Lane  Parrington. 

"Genius,  my  boy,  sheer,  untrammeled  genius,"  said  Schooner 
Fairchild.  He  chuckled  and  sobered.  "Well,  somebody  has  to," 
he  said  reasonably.  "And  you  wouldn't  expect  Tom  Drury  to  do 
it,  would  you?— poor  old  Tom!" 

"No,"  said  Lane  Parrington,  breathing.  "I  wouldn't  expect  Tom 
Drury  to  do  it." 

"Oh,  Tom's  all  right,"  said  Schooner  Fairchild.  "He  was  just 
born  with  an  ingrowing  Drury  and  never  had  it  operated  on.  But 
he's  a  fine  guy,  all  the  same.  Lord,"  he  said,  "it  must  be  a  curse 
—to  have  to  be  a  Drury,  whether  you  like  it  or  not.  I  never  could 
have  stood  it— I  never  could  have  played  the  game.  Of  course,"  he 
added  hastily,  "I  suppose  it's  different,  if  you  do  it  all  yourself, 
the  way  you  have.  That  must  be  a  lot  of  run." 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"I  wouldn't  exactly  call  it  fun,"  said  Lane  Parrington  earnestly. 
"You  see,  after  all,  Schooner,  there  are  quite  a  good  many  things 
that  enter  into  .  .  ."  He  paused,  and  laughed  hopelessly.  "Wds 
I  always  a  stuffed  shirt?"  he  said.  "I  suppose  I  was." 

"Oh,  I  wouldn't  call  you  a  stuffed  shirt,"  said  Schooner,  a  little 
quickly.  "You  just  had  to  succeed— and  you've  done  it.  Gosh,  we 
all  knew  you  were  going  to,  right  from  the  first— there  couldn't 
be  any  mistake  about  that.  It  must  be  a  swell  feeling."  He  looked 
at  Lane  Parrington  and  his  voice  trailed  off.  He  began  again. 
"You  see,  it  was  different  with  me,"  he  said.  "I  couldn't  help  it. 
Why,  just  take  a  look  at  me— I've  even  got  a  comedy  face.  Well, 
I  never  wanted  anything  very  much  except— oh,  to  have  a  good 
time  and  know  other  people  were  having  a  good  time.  Oh,  I 
tried  taking  the  other  things  seriously— 1  tried  when  I  was  a 
broker,  but  I  couldn't,  it  was  just  no  go.  I  made  money  enough 
—everybody  was  making  money— but  every  now  and  then,  in  the 
middle  of  a  million-share  day,  Fd  just  think  how  damn  silly  it 
was  for  everybody  to  be  watching  the  board  and  getting  all 
excited  over  things  called  ATT  and  UGI.  And  that's  no  way  for 
a  broker  to  act— you've  got  to  believe  those  silly  initials  mean 
something,  if  you  want  to  be  a  broker. 

"Well,  I've  tried  a  good  many  things  since.  And  now  and  then 
I've  been  lucky,  and  we've  gotten  along.  And  I've  spent  most  of 
Minnie's  money,  but  she  says  it  was  worth  it— and  we've  got  the 
five  girls  and  they're  wonders— and  I'll  probably  die  playing  the 
piano  at  some  fool  party,  for  you  can't  keep  it  up  forever,  but 
I  only  hope  it  happens  before  somebody  says,  'There  goes  poor 
old  Schooner.  He  used  to  be  pretty  amusing,  in  his  time!'  But, 
you  see,  I  couldn't  help  it,"  he  ended  diffidently.  "And,  you 
know,  I've  tried.  I've  tried  hard.  But  then  I'd  start  laughing,  and 
it  always  got  in  the  way." 

Lane  Parrington  looked  at  the  man  who  had  spent  his  wife's 
money  and  his  own  for  a  sleight-of-hand  trick,  five  daughters, 
and  the  sound  of  friendly  laughter.  He  looked  at  him  without 
understanding,  and  yet  with  a  curious  longing. 

"But,  Schooner—"  he  said,  "with  all  you  can  do— you  ought 

"Oh,"  said  Schooner,  a  trifle  wearily,  "one  has  one's  dreams. 
Sure,  I'd  like  to  be  Victor  Boucher— he's  a  beautiful  comedian. 


Schooner  Fairchild's  Class 

Or  Bill  Fields,  for  instance.  Who  wouldn't?  But  I  don't  kid  my- 
self. It's  a  parlor  talent— it  doesn't  go  oyer  the  footlights.  But, 
Lord,  what  fun  I've  had  with  it!  And  the  funny  things  people 
keep  doing,  forever  and  ever,  amen.  And  the  decent—the  very 
decent  things  they  keep  doing,  too.  Well,  I  always  thought  it 
would  be  a  good  life,  while  you  had  it."  He  paused,  and  Lane 
Parrington  saw  the  fatigue  on  his  face.  "Well,  it's  been  a  good 
party,"  he  said.  "I  wish  old  Pozzy  could  have  been  here.  But  I 
guess  we  ought  to  go  to  bed." 

"I'll  phone  for  a  cab,"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "Nope—you're 
*  j '      j  > 

Lane  Parrington  shut  the  door  of  Schooner  Fairchild's  room 
behind  him  and  stood,  for  a  moment,  with  his  hand  on  the  knob. 
He  had  seen  Schooner  safely  to  bed— he  had  even  insisted  on  the 
latter's  taking  his  medicine,  though  Schooner  had  been  a  little 
petulant  about  it.  Now,  however,  he  still  wondered  about  calling 
a  doctor— if  Schooner  should  be  worse  in  the  morning,  he  would 
have  Anstey  come  up  by  plane.  It  was  nothing  to  do,  though  not 
everybody  could  do  it,  and  Anstey  was  much  the  best  man.  In 
any  case,  he  would  insist  on  Schooner's  seeing  Anstey  this  week. 
Then  he  wondered  just  how  he  was  going  to  insist. 

The  old  elevator  just  across  the  corridor  came  to  a  wheezing 
stop.  Its  door  opened  and  a  dark-haired  girl  in  evening  dress 
came  out.  Lane  Parrington  dropped  his  hand  from  the  doorknob 
and  turned  away.  But  the  girl  took  three  quick  steps  after  him. 

"I'm  sorry,"  she  said,  a  little  breathlessly,  "but  I'm  Sylvia  Fair- 
child.  Is  Father  ill?  The  elevator  boy  said  something— and  I  saw 
you  coming  out  of  his  room," 

"He's  all  right,"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "It  was  just  the  slight- 
est sort  of—" 

"Oh!"  said  the  girl,  "do  you  mind  coming  back  for  a  minute? 
You're  Ted's  father,  aren't  you?  My  room's  next  door,  but  I've 
got  a  key  for  his,  too— Mother  told  me  to  be  sure—"  She  seemed 
very  self-possessed.  Lane  Parrington  waited  uncomfortably  in  the 
corridor  for  what  seemed  to  him  a  long  time,  while  she  went  into 
her  father's  room.  When  she  carne  out  again,  she  seemed  relieved. 

"It's  all  right,"  she  said,  in  a  low  voice.  "He's  asleep,  and  his 
color's  good.  And  he's  .  .  ."  She  paused.  "Oh,  damn!"  she  said. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"We  can't  talk  out  here.  Come  into  my  room  for  a  minute— we 
can  leave  the  door  open— after  all,  you  are  Ted's  father.  I'll  have 
to  tell  Mother,  you  see— and  Father  will  just  say  it  wasn't  any- 

She  opened  the  door  and  led  the  way  into  the  room.  "Here," 
she  said.  "Just  throw  those  stockings  off  the  chair— I'll  sit  on 
the  bed.  Well?" 

"Well,  I  asked  him  if  he  wanted  a  doctor  .  .  ."  said  Lane  Par- 
rington  humbly. 

When  he  had  finished  a  concise,  efficient  report,  the  girl 
nodded,  and  he  saw  for  the  first  time  that  she  was  pretty,  with 
her  dark,  neat  head  and  her  clever,  stubborn  chin. 

"Thank  you,"  she  said.  "I  mean,  really.  Father's  a  perfect  lamb 
—but  he  doesn't  like  to  worry  Mother,  and  it  worries  her  a  lot 
more  not  to  know.  And  sometimes  it's  rather  difficult,  getting  the 
truth  out  of  Father's  friends.  Not  you,"  she  was  pleased  to  add. 
"You've  been  perfectly  truthful.  And  the  brandy  was  quite  all 

"I'm  glad,"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "I  wish  your  father  would 
see  Anstey,"  he  added,  a  trifle  awkwardly.  "I  could— er— make 

"He  has,"  said  the  girl.  Her  mouth  twitched.  "Oh,"  she  said. 
"I  shouldn't  have  gone  to  the  dance.  I  couldn't  help  the  Momus 
Club,  but  he  might  have  come  back  afterward,  if  I'd  been  here. 
Only,  I  don't  know." 

"I  wouldn't  reproach  myself,"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "After 

"Oh,  I  know,"  said  the  girl.  "After  all!  If  you  don't  all  manage 
to  kill  him,  between  you!  Friends!"  she  sniffed.  Then,  suddenly, 
her  face  broke  into  lines  of  amusement.  "I  sound  just  like  Aunt 
Emma,"  she  said.  "And  that's  pretty  silly  of  me.  Aunt  Emma's 
almost  pure  poison.  Of  course  it  isn't  your  fault  and  I  really  do 
thank  you.  Very  much.  Do  you  know,  I  never  expected  you'd 
be  a  friend  of  Father's." 

"After  all,"  said  Lane  Parrington  stiffly,  "we  were  in  the  same 

"Oh,  I  know,"  said  the  girl.  "Father's  talked  about  you,  of 
course."  Her  mouth  twitched  again,  but  this  time,  it  seemed  to 
Lane  Parrington,  with  a  secret  merriment.  "And  so  has  Ted, 
naturally,"  she  added  politely. 


Schooner  Fairchild's  Class 

"I'm  glad  he  happened  to  mention  me,"  said  Lane  Parrington, 
and  she  grinned,  frankly. 

"I  deserved  that,"  she  said,  while  Lane  Parrington  averted  his 
eyes  from  what  seemed  to  be  a  remarkably  flimsy  garment  hung 
over  the  bottom  of  the  bed.  "But  Ted  has,  really.  He  admires 
you  quite  a  lot,  you  know,  though,  of  course,  you're  different 

"Tell  me—"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "No,  I  won't  ask  you." 

"Oh,  you  know  Ted,"  said  the  girl,  rather  impatiently.  "It's 
awfully  hard  to  get  him  to  say  things— and  he  will  spend  such  a 
lot  of  time  thinking  he  ought  to  be  noble,  poor  Iamb.  But  he's 
losing  just  a  little  of  that,  thank  goodness—when  he  first  came  to 
Widgeon  Point,  he  was  trying  so  hard  to  be  exactly  like  that  ter- 
rible Drury  boy.  You  see—"  she  said,  suddenly  and  gravely,  "he 
could  lose  quite  a  lot  of  it  and  still  have  more  than  most  people." 

Lane  Parrington  cleared  his  throat.  There  seemed  nothing  for 
him  to  say.  Then  he  thought  of  something. 

"His  mother  was— er— a  remarkable  person,"  he  said.  "We  were 
not  at  all  happy  together.  But  she  had  remarkable  qualities." 

"Yes,"  said  the  girl.  "Ted's  told  me.  He  remembers  her."  They 
looked  at  each  other  for  a  moment— he  noted  the  stubborn  chin, 
the  swift  and  admirable  hands.  Then  a  clock  on  the  mantel  struck 
and  the  girl  jumped. 

"Good  heavens!"  she  said.  "It's  four  o'clock!  Well— good  night. 
And  I  do  thank  you,  Mr.  Parrington." 

"It  wasn't  anything,"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "But  remember  me 
to  your  father.  But  I'll  see  you  in  the  morning,  of  course." 

The  following  afternoon,  Lane  Parrington  found  himself  wait- 
ing for  his  car  in  the  lobby  of  the  inn.  There  had  been  a  little 
trouble  with  the  garage  and  it  was  late.  But  he  did  not  care, 
particularly,  though  he  felt  glad  to  be  going  back  to  New  York. 
He  had  said  good-by  to  Ted  an  hour  before— Ted  was  going  on 
to  a  house  party  at  the  Chiltons'— they'd  eventually  meet  on  Long 
Island,  he  supposed.  Meanwhile,  he  had  had  a  pleasant  morning, 
attended  the  commencement  exercises,  and  had  lunch  with  Ted 
and  the  Fairchilds  at  the  inn.  Schooner  had  been  a  little  subdued 
and  both  Ted  and  the  girl  frankly  sleepy,  but  he  had  enjoyed 
the  occasion  nevertheless.  And  somehow  the  fact  that  the  presi- 
dent's baccalaureate  address  had  also  viewed  with  alarm  and 
talked  about  imperiled  bulwarks  and  the  American  way  of  life— 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

had,  in  fact,  repeated  with  solemn  precision  a  good  many  of  the 
points  in  his  own  speech—did  not  irk  Lane  Parrington  as  it  might 
nave  the  day  before.  After  all,  the  boys  were  young  and  could 
stand  it.  They  had  stood  a  good  deal  of  nonsense,  even  in  his 
own  time. 

Now  he  thought  once  more  of  the  equation  he  had  tried  too 
earnestly  to  solve,  in  the  back  yard  of  commencement  head- 
quarters—and, for  a  moment,  almost  grinned.  It  was,  of  course, 
insoluble— life  was  not  as  neat  as  that.  You  did  what  you  could, 
as  it  was  given  you  to  do— very  often  you  did  the  wrong  things. 
And  if  you  did  the  wrong  things,  you  could  hardly  remedy  them 
by  a  sudden  repentance— or,  at  least,  he  could  not.  There  were 
still  the  wigglers  and  the  ones  who  stood  still— and  each  had  his 
own  virtues.  And  because  he  was  a  wiggler,  he  had  thoughtfully 
and  zealously  done  his  best  to  make  his  son  into  the  image  of  one 
of  the  magnificent  sheep— the  image  of  Tom  Drury,  who  was 
neither  hungry  nor  gay.  He  could  not  remedy  that,  but  he 
thought  he  knew  somebody  who  could  remedy  it,  remembering 
the  Fairchild  girl's  stubborn  chin.  And,  in  that  case  at  least,  the 
grandchildren  ought  to  be  worth  watching. 

"Your  car,  Mr.  Parrington,"  said  a  bellboy.  He  moved  toward 
the  door.  It  was  hard  to  keep  from  being  a  stuffed  shirt,  if  you 
had  the  instinct  in  you,  but  one  could  try.  A  good  deal  might  be 
done,  with  trying. 

As  he  stepped  out  upon  the  steps  of  the  inn,  he  noticed  a 
figure,  saluting— old  Negro  Mose,  the  campus  character  who  re- 
membered everybody's  name. 

"Hello,  Mose!"  said  Lane  Parrington.  "Remember  me?" 

"Remember  you— sho\  Mr.  Parrington,"  said  Mose.  He  re- 
garded Lane  Parrington  with  beady  eyes.  "Let's  see— you  was 

"Nineteen  hundred  and  eight,"  said  Lane  Parrington,  but  with- 
out rancor. 

Mose  gave  a  professional  chuckle.  "Sho'I"  he  said.  "I  was 
forgettin'!  Let's  see— you  hasn't  been  back  fo'  years,  Mister  Par- 
rington—but  you  was  in  Tom  Drury's  class— an'  Schooner  Fair- 
child's  class-" 

"No,"  said  Lane  Parrington  and  gave  the  expected  dollar,  "not 
Tom  Drury's  class.  Schooner  Fairchild's  class." 



Yes,  I  guess  I  have  put  on  weight  since  you  last  saw  me— 
not  that  you're  any  piker  yourself,  Spike.  But  I  suppose  you 
medicos  have  to  keep  in  shape—probably  do  better  than  we  down- 
town. I  try  to  play  golf  in  the  week-ends,  and  I  do  a  bit  of  sail- 
ing. But  four  innings  of  the  baseball  game  at  reunion  was  enough 
for  me.  I  dropped  out,  after  that,  and  let  Art  Corliss  pitch. 

You  really  should  have  been  up  there.  After  all,  the  Twentieth 
is  quite  a  milestone— and  the  class  is  pretty  proud  of  its  famous 
man.  What  was  it  that  magazine  article  said:  "most  brilliant 
young  psychiatrist  in  the  country"?  I  may  not  know  psychiatry 
from  marbles,  but  I  showed  it  to  Lisa,  remarking  that  it  was  old 
Spike  Garrett,  and  for  once  she  was  impressed.  She  thinks  brokers 
are  pretty  dumb  eggs.  I  wish  you  could  stay  for  dinner— I'd  like 
to  show  you  the  apartment  and  the  twins.  No,  they're  Lisa's  and 
mine.  Boys,  if  you'll  believe  it.  Yes,  the  others  are  with  Sally- 
young  Barbara's  pretty  grown  up,  now. 

Well,  I  can't  complain.  I  may  not  be  famous  like  you,  Spike, 
but  I  manage  to  get  along,  in  spite  of  the  brain  trusters,  and 
having  to  keep  up  the  place  on  Long  Island.  I  wish  you  got 
East  oftener— there's  a  pretty  view  from  the  guest  house,  right 
across  the  Sound— and  if  you  wanted  to  write  a  book  or  any- 
thing, we'd  know  enough  to  leave  you  alone.  Well,  they  started 
calling  me  a  partner  two  years  ago,  so  I  guess  that's  what  I  am, 
Still  fooling  them,  you  know.  But,  seriously,  we've  got  a  pretty 
fine  organization.  We  run  a  conservative  business,  but  we're  no! 
all  stuffed  shirts,  in  spite  of  what  the  radicals  say.  As  a  matter  oi 
fact,  you  ought  to  see  what  the  boys  ran  about  us  in  the  last  Bawl 
Street  Journal.  Remind  me  to  show  it  to  you. 

But  it's  your  work  I  want  to  hear  about— remember  thos< 
bull-sessions  we  used  to  have  in  Old  Main?  Old  Spike  Garrett 
the  Medical  Marvel!  Why,  I've  even  read  a  couple  of  your  books 
you  old  horse  thief,  believe  it  or  not!  You  got  me  pretty  tanglec 
up  on  all  that  business  about  the  id  and  the  ego,  too.  But  what  1 
say  is,  there  must  be  something  in  it  if  a  fellow  like  Spike  Garrcti 
believes  it.  And  there  is,  isn't  there?  Oh,  I  know  you  couldn't  giv( 
me  an  answer  in  five  minutes.  But  as  long  as  there's  a  system- 
and  the  medicos  know  what  they're  doing. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

I'm  not  asking  for  myself,  of  course—remember  how  you  used 
to  call  me  the  99  per-cent  normal  man?  Well,  I  guess  I  haven't 
changed.  It's  just  that  I've  gotten  to  thinking  recently,  and  Lisa 
says  I  go  around  like  a  bear  with  a  sore  head.  Well,  it  isn't  that. 
I'm  just  thinking.  A  man  has  to  think  once  in  a  while.  And  then, 
going  back  to  reunion  brought  it  all  up  again. 

What  I  mean  is  this— the  thing  seemed  pretty  clear  when  we 
were  in  college.  Of  course,  that  was  back  in  '15,  but  I  can 
remember  the  way  most  of  us  thought.  You  fell  in  love  with  a 
girl  and  married  her  and  settled  down  and  had  children  and  that 
was  that.  I'm  not  being  simple-minded  about  it— you  knew  peo- 
ple get  divorced,  just  as  you  knew  people  died,  but  it  didn't  seem 
something  that  was  likely  to  happen  to  you.  Especially  if  you 
came  from  a  small  Western  city,  as  I  did.  Great  Scott,  I  can 
remember  when  I  was  just  a  kid  and  the  Premisses  got  divorced. 
They  were  pretty  prominent  people  and  it  shook  the  whole  town. 

That's  why  I  want  to  figure  things  out  for  my  own  satisfaction. 
Because  I  never  expected  to  be  any  Lothario— I'm  not  the  type. 
And  yet  Sally  and  I  got  divorced  and  we're  both  remarried,  and 
even  so,  to  tell  you  the  truth,  things  aren't  going  too  well.  I'm 
not  saying  a  word  against  Lisa.  But  that's  the  way  things  are.  And 
it  isn't  as  if  I  were  the  only  one.  You  can  look  around  anywhere 
and  see  it,  and  it  starts  you  wondering. 

I'm  not  going  to  bore  you  about  myself  and  Sally.  Good  Lord, 
you  ushered  at  the  wedding,  and  she  always  liked  you.  Remem- 
ber when  you  used  to  come  out  to  the  house?  Well,  she  hasn't 
changed— she's  still  got  that  little  smile— though,  of  course,  we're 
all  older.  Her  husband's  a  doctor,  too— that's  funny,  isn't  it?— and 
they  live  out  in  Montclair.  They've  got  a  nice  place  there  and  he's 
very  well  thought  of.  We  used  to  live  in  Meadowfield,  re- 

I  remember  the  first  time  I  saw  her  after  she  married  Mc- 
Conaghey— oh,  we're  perfectly  friendly,  you  know.  She  had  on 
red  nail  polish  and  her  hair  was  different,  a  different  bob.  And 
she  had  one  of  those  handbags  with  her  new  initials  on  it.  It's 
funny,  the  first  time,  seeing  your  wife  in  clothes  you  don't  know. 
Though  Lisa  and  I  have  been  married  eight  years,  for  that  matter, 
and  Sally  and  I  were  divorced  in  '28. 

Of  course,  we  have  the  children  for  part  of  the  summer.  We'll 
have  Barbara  this  summer— Bud'll  be  in  camp.  It's  a  little  difficult 


Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 

sometimes,  but  we  all  co-operate.  You  have  to.  And  there's  plenty 
to  do  on  Long  Island  in  the  summer,  that's  one  thing.  But  they 
and  Lisa  get  along  very  well— Sally's  brought  them  up  nicely  that 
way.  For  that  matter,  Doctor  McConaghey's  very  nice  when  I 
see  him.  He  gave  me  a  darn  good  prescription  for  a  cold  and  I  get 
it  filled  every  winter.  And  Jim  Blake— he's  Lisa's  first  husband- 
is  really  pretty  interesting,  now  we've  got  to  seeing  him  again. 
In  fact,  we're  all  awfully  nice— just  as  nice  and  polite  as  we  can 
be.  And  sometimes  I  get  to  wondering  if  it  mightn't  be  a  good 
idea  if  somebody  started  throwing  fits  and  shooting  rockets, 
instead.  Of  course  I  don't  really  mean  that. 

You  were  out  for  a  week  end  with  us  in  Meadowfield— maybe 
you  don't  remember  it— but  Bud  was  about  six  months  old  then 
and  Barbara  was  just  running  around.  It  wasn't  a  bad  house,  if 
you  remember  the  house.  Dutch  Colonial,  and  the  faucet  in  the 
pantry  leaked.  The  landlord  was  always  fixing  it,  but  he  never 
quite  fixed  it  right.  And  you  had  to  cut  hard  to  the  left  to  back 
into  the  garage.  But  Sally  liked  the  Japanese  cherry  tree  and  it 
wasn't  a  bad  house.  We  were  going  to  build  on  Rose  Hill  Road 
eventually.  We  had  the  lot  picked  out,  if  we  didn't  have  the 
money,  and  we  made  plans  about  it.  Sally  never  could  remember 
to  put  in  the  doors  in  the  plan,  and  we  laughed  about  that. 

It  wasn't  anything  extraordinary,  just  an  evening.  After  sup- 
per, we  sat  around  the  lawn  in  deck  chairs  and  drank  Sally's  beer 
—it  was  long  before  Repeal.  We'd  repainted  the  deck  chairs  our- 
selves the  Sunday  before  and  we  felt  pretty  proud  of  them.  The 
light  stayed  late,  but  there  was  a  breeze  after  dark,  and  once  Bud 
started  yipping  and  Sally  went  up  to  him.  She  had  on  a  white 
dress,  I  think— she  used  to  wear  white  a  lot  in  the  summers— it 
went  with  her  blue  eyes  and  her  yellow  hair.  Well,  it  wasn't 
anything  extraordinary— we  didn't  even  stay  up  late.  But  we 
were  all  there.  And  if  you'd  told  me  that  within  three  years  we'd 
both  be  married  to  other  people,  I'd  have  thought  you  were 

Then  you  went  West,  remember,  and  we  saw  you  off  on  the 
train.  So  you  didn't  see  what  happened,  and,  as  a  matter  of  fact, 
it's  hard  to  remember  when  we  nrst  started  meeting  the  Blakes. 
They'd  moved  to  Meadowfield  then,  but  we  hadn't  met  them. 

Jim  Blake  was  one  of  those  pleasant,  ugly-faced  people  with 
steel  glasses  who  get  right  ahead  in  the  law  and  never  IOOK  young 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

or  old.  And  Lisa  was  Lisa.  She's  dark,  you  know,  and  she  takes 
a  beautiful  burn.  She  was  the  first  girl  there  to  wear  real  beach 
things  or  drink  a  special  kind  of  tomato  juice  when  everybody 
else  wa^  drinking  cocktails.  She  was  very  pretty  and  very  good 
fun  to  be  with— she's  got  lots  of  ideas.  They  entertained  a  good 
deal  because  Lisa  likes  that—she  had  her  own  income,  of  course, 
and  she  and  Jim  used  to  bicker  a  good  deal  in  public  in  an  amus- 
ing way— it  was  sort  of  an  act  or  seemed  like  it.  They  had  one  lit- 
tle girl,  Sylvia,  that  Jim  was  crazy  about.  I  mean  it  sounds  normal, 
doesn't  it,  even  to  their  having  the  kind  of  Airedale  you  had  then? 
Well,  it  all  seemed  normal  enough  to  us,  and  they  soon  got  to  be 
part  of  the  crowd.  You  know,  the  young  married  crowd  in  every 

Of  course,  that  was  '28  and  the  boom  was  booming  and 
everybody  was  feeling  pretty  high.  I  suppose  that  was  part  of 
it— the  money— and  the  feeling  you  had  that  everything  was 
going  faster  and  faster  and  wouldn't  stop.  Why,  it  was  Sally 
herself  who  said  that  we  owed  ourselves  a  whirl  and  mustn't  get 
stodgy  and  settled  while  we  were  still  young.  Well,  we  had 
snick  pretty  close  to  the  grindstone  for  the  past  few  years,  with 
the  children  and  everything.  And  it  was  fun  to  feel  young  and 
sprightly  again  and  buy  a  new  car  and  take  in  the  club  gala 
without  having  to  worry  about  how  you'd  pay  your  house 
account.  But  I  don't  see  any  harm  in  that. 

And  then,  of  course,  we  talked  and  kidded  a  lot  about  freedom 
and  what  have  you.  Oh,  you  know  the  kind  of  talk— everybody 
was  talking  it  then.  About  not  being  Victorians  and  living  your 
own  life.  And  there  was  the  older  generation  and  the  younger 
generation.  I've  forgotten  a  lot  of  it  now,  but  I  remember  there 
was  one  piece  about  love  not  being  just  a  form  of  words  mum- 
bled by  a  minister,  but  something  pretty  special.  As  a  matter  of 
fact,  the  minister  who  married  us  was  old  Doctor  Snell  and  he 
had  the  kind  of  voice  you  could  hear  in  the  next  county.  But  I 
used  to  talk  about  that  mumbling  minister  myself.  I  mean,  we 
were  enlightened,  for  a  suburb,  if  you  get  my  point.  Yes,  and 
pretty  proud  of  it,  too.  When  they  banned  a  book  in  Boston,  the 
lending  library  ordered  six  extra  copies.  And  I  still  remember  the 
big  discussion  we  had  about  perfect  freedom  in  marriage  when 
even  the  straight  Republicans  voted  the  radical  ticket.  All  except 


Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 

Chick  Bewleigh,  and  he  was  a  queer  sort  of  bird,  who  didn't  even 
believe  that  stocks  had  reached  a  permanently  high  plateau. 

But,  meanwhile,  most  of  us  were  getting  the  8:15  and  our 
wives  were  going  down  to  the  chain  store  and  asking  if  that  was 
a  really  nice  head  of  lettuce.  At  least  that's  the  way  we  seemed. 
And,  if  the  crowd  started  kidding  me  about  Mary  Sennett,  or 
Mac  Church  kissed  Sally  on  the  ear  at  a  club  revel,  why,  we 
were  young,  we  were  modern,  and  we  could  handle  that.  I 
wasn't  going  to  take  a  shotgun  to  Mac,  and  Sally  wasn't  going 
to  put  on  the  jealous  act.  Oh,  we  had  it  all  down  to  a  science.  We 
certainly  did. 

Good  Lord,  we  had  the  Blakes  to  dinner,  and  they  had  us. 
They'd  drop  over  for  drinks  or  we'd  drop  over  there.  It  was 
all  perfectly  normal  and  part^  of  the  crowd.  For  that  matter, 
Sally  played  with  Jim  Blake  in  the  mixed  handicap  and  they 
got  to  the  semifinals.  No,  I  didn't  play  with  Lisa— she  doesn't  like 
golf.  I  mean  that's  the  way  it  was. 

And  I  can  remember  the  minute  it  started,  and  it  wasn't  any- 
thing, just  a  party  at  the  Bewleighs'.  They've  got  a  big,  rambling 
house  and  people  drift  around.  Lisa  and  I  had  wandered  out  to  the 
kitchen  to  get  some  drinks  for  the  people  on  the  porch.  She 
had  on  a  black  dress,  that  night,  with  a  big  sort  of  orange  flower 
on  it.  It  wouldn't  have  suited  everybody,  but  it  suited  her. 

We  were  talking  along  like  anybody  and  suddenly  we  stopped 
talking  and  looked  at  each  other.  And  I  felt,  for  a  minute,  well, 
just  the  way  I  felt  when  I  was  first  in  love  with  Sally.  Only  this 
time,  it  wasn't  Sally.  It  happened  so  suddenly  that  all  I  could 
chink  of  was,  "Watch  your  step!"  Just  as  if  you'd  gone  into  a 
room  in  the  dark  and  hit  your  elbow.  I  guess  that  makes  it 
genuine,  doesn't  it? 

We  picked  it  up  right  away  and  went  back  to  the  party.  All 
she  said  was,  "Did  anybody  ever  tell  you  that  you're  really  quite 
a  menace,  Dan?"  and  she  said  that  in  the  way  we  all  said  those 
things.  But,  all  the  same,  it  had  happened.  I  could  hear  her  voice 
all  the  way  back  in  the  car.  And  yet,  I  was  as  fond  of  Sally  as 
ever.  I  don't  suppose  you'll  believe  that,  but  it's  true. 

And  next  morning,  I  tried  to  kid  myself  that  it  didn't  have 
any  importance.  Because  Sally  wasn't  jealous,  and  we  were  all 
modern  and  advanced  and  knew  about  life.  But  the  next  time 
I  saw  Lisa,  I  knew  it  had. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

I  want  to  say  this.  If  you  think  it  was  all  romance  and  rose- 
buds, you're  wrong.  A  lot  of  it  was  merry  hell.  And  yet,  every- 
body whooped  us  on.  That's  what  I  don't  understand.  They 
didn't  really  want  the  Painters  and  the  Blakes  to  get  divorced, 
and  yet  they  were  pretty  interested.  Now,  why  do  people  do 
that?  Some  of  them  would  carefully  put  Lisa  and  me  next  to 
each  other  at  table  and  some  of  them  would  just  as  carefully  not. 
But  it  all  added  up  to  the  same  thing  in  the  end—a  circus  was 
going  on  and  we  were  part  of  the  circus.  It's  interesting  to 
watch  the  people  on  the  high  wires  at  the  circus  and  you  hope 
they  don't  fall.  But,  if  they  did,  that  would  be  interesting  too. 
Of  course,  there  were  a  couple  of  people  who  tried,  as  they  sayf 
to  warn  us.  But  they  were  older  people  and  just  made  us  mad. 

Everybody  was  so  nice  and  considerate  and  understanding. 
Everybody  was  so  nice  and  intelligent  and  fine.  Don't  misunder- 
stand me.  It  was  wonderful,  being  with  Lisa.  It  was  new  and 
exciting.  And  it  seemed  to  be  wonderful  for  her,  and  she'd  been 
unhappy  with  Jim.  So,  anyway,  that  made  me  feel  less  of  a  heel, 
though  I  felt  enough  of  a  heel,  from  time  to  time.  And  then, 
when  we  were  together,  it  would  seem  so  fine. 

A  couple  of  times  we  really  tried  to  break  it,  too— at  least 
twice.  But  we  all  belonged  to  the  same  crowd,  and  what  could 
you  do  but  run  away?  And,  somehow,  that  meant  more  than 
running  away— it  meant  giving  in  to  the  Victorians  and  that 
mumbling  preacher  and  all  the  things  we'd  said  we  didn't  be- 
lieve in.  Or  I  suppose  Sally  might  have  done  like  old  Mrs.  Pierce, 
back  home.  She  horsewhipped  the  dressmaker  on  the  station  plat- 
form and  then  threw  herself  crying  into  Major  Pierce's  arms 
and  he  took  her  to  Atlantic  City  instead.  It's  one  of  the  town's 
great  stories  and  I  always  wondered  what  they  talked  about  on 
the  train.  Of  course,  they  moved  to  DCS  Moines  after  that— I 
remember  reading  about  their  golden  wedding  anniversary  when 
I  was  in  college.  Only  nobody  could  do  that  nowadays,  and, 
besides,  Lisa  wasn't  a  dressmaker. 

So,  finally,  one  day,  I  came  home,  and  there  was  Sally,  per- 
fectly cold,  and,  we  talked  pretty  nearly  all  night.  We'd  been 
awfully  polite  to  each  other  for  quite  a  while  before— the  way 
you  are.  And  we  kept  polite,  we  kept  a  good  grip  on  ourselves. 
After  all,  we'd  said  to  each  other  before  we  were  married  that 
if  either  of  us  ever— and  there  it  was.  And  it  was  Sally  who 


Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 

brought  that  up,  not  me.  I  think  we'd  have  felt  better  if  we'd 
fought.  But  we  didn't  fight. 

Of  course,  she  was  bound  to  say  some  things  about  Lisa,  and 
I  was  bound  to  answer.  But  that  didn't  last  long  and  we  got  our 
grip  right  back  again.  It  was  funny,  being  strangers  and  talking  so 
politely,  but  we  did  it.  I  think  it  gave  us  a  queer  .kind  of  pride 
to  do  it.  I  think  it  gave  us  a  queer  kind  of  pride  for  her  to  ask 
me  politely  for  a  drink  at  the  end,  as  if  she  were  in  somebody 
else's  house,  and  for  me  to  mix  it  for  her,  as  if  she  were  a  guest. 

Everything  was  talked  out  by  then  and  the  house  felt  very 
dry  and  empty,  as  if  nobody  lived  in  it  at  all.  We'd  never  been  up 
quite  so  late  in  the  house,  except  after  a  New  Year's  party  or 
when  Buddy  was  sick,  that  time.  I  mixed  her  drink  very  care- 
fully, the  way  she  liked  it,  with  plain  water,  and  she  took  it  and 
said  "Thanks."  Then  she  sat  for  a  while  without  saying  anything. 
It  was  so  quiet  you  could  hear  the  little  drip  of  the  leaky  faucet 
in  the  pantry,  in  spite  of  the  door  being  closed.  She  heard  it  and 
said,  "It's  dripping  again.  You  better  call  up  Mr.  Vye  in  the  morn- 
ing—I forgot.  And  I  think  Barbara's  getting  a  cold— I  meant  to 
tell  you."  Then  her  face  twisted  and  I  thought  she  was  going  to 
cry,  but  she  didn't. 

She  put  the  glass  down—she'd  only  drunk  half  her  drink— and 
said,  quite  quietly,  "Oh,  damn  you,  and  damn  Lisa  Blake,  and 
damn  everything  in  the  world!"  Then  she  ran  upstairs  before  I 
could  stop  her  and  she  still  wasn't  crying. 

I  could  have  run  upstairs  after  her,  but  I  didn't.  I  stood  looking 
at  the  glass  on  the  table  and  I  couldn't  think.  Then,  after  a 
while,  I  heard  a  key  turn  in  a  lock.  So  I  picked  up  my  hat  and 
went  out  for  a  walk— I  hadn't  been  out  walking  that  early  in  a 
long  time.  Finally,  I  found  an  all-night  djoer  and  got  some  coffee. 
Then  I  came  back  and  read  a  book  tlFthe  maid  got  down— it 
wasn't  a  very  interesting  book.  When  she  came  down,  I  pre- 
tended I'd  gotten  up  early  and  had  to  go  into  town  by  the  first 
train,  but  I  guess  she  knew. 

I'm  not  going  to  talk  about  the  details.  If  you've  been  through 
them,  you've  been  through  them;  and  if  you  haven't,  you  don't 
know.  My  family  was  fond  of  Sally,  and  Sally's  had  always  liked 
me.  Well,  that  made  it  tough.  And  the  children.  They  don't  say 
the  things  you  expect  them  to.  I'm  not  going  to  talk  about  that. 

Oh,  we  put  on  a  good  act,  we  put  on  a  great  show!  There 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

weren't  any  fists  flying  or  accusations.  Everybody  said  how 
well  we  did  it,  everybody  in  town.  And  Lisa  and  Sally  saw  each 
other,  and  Jim  Blake  and  I  talked  to  each  other  perfectly  calmly. 
We  said  all  the  usual  things.  He  talked  just  as  if  it  were  a  case. 
I  admired  him  for  it.  Lisa  did  her  best  to  make  it  emotional,  but 
we  wouldn't  let  her.  And  I  finally  made  her  see  that,  court  or 
no  court,  he'd  simply  have  to  have  Sylvia.  He  was  crazy  about 
her,  and  while  Lisa's  a  very  good  mother,  there  wasn't  any  ques- 
tion as  to  which  of  them  the  kid  liked  best.  It  happens  that  way, 

For  that  matter,  I  saw  Sally  off  on  the  train  to  Reno.  She 
wanted  it  that  way.  Lisa  was  going  to  get  a  Mexican  divorce— 
they'd  just  come  in,  you  know.  And  nobody  could  have  told, 
from  the  way  we  talked  in  the  station.  It's  funny,  you  get  a  queer 
bond,  through  a  time  like  that.  After  I'd  seen  her  off—  and  she 
looked  small  in  the  train—the  first  person  I  wanted  to  see  wasn't 
Lisa,  but  Jim  Blake.  You  see,  other  people  are  fine,  but  unless 
you've  been  through  things  yourself,  you  don't  quite  understand 
them.  But  Jim  Blake  was  still  in  Meadowfield,  so  I  went  back  to 
the  club. 

I  hadn't  ever  really  lived  in  the  club  before,  except  for  three 
days  one  summer.  They  treat  you  very  well,  but,  of  course, 
being  a  college  club,  it's  more  for  the  youngsters  and  the  few 
old  boys  who  hang  around  the  bar.  I  got  awfully  tired  of  the 
summer  chintz  in  the  dining  room  and  the  Greek  waiter  I  had 
who  breathed  on  my  neck.  And  you  can't  work  all  the  time, 
though  I  used  to  stay  late  at  the  office.  I  guess  it  was  then  I 
first  thought  of  getting  out  of  Spencer  Wilde  and  making  a  new 
connection.  You  think  about  a  lot  of  things  at  a  time  like  that. 

Of  course,  there  werjUots  of  people  I  could  have  seen,  but  I 

didn't  much  want  to—  sOTRehow,  you  don't.  Though  I  did  strike 
up  quite  a  friendship  with  one  of  the  old  boys.  He  was  about 
fifty-five  and  he'd  been  divorced  four  times  and  was  living  per- 
manently at  the  club.  We  used  to  sit  up  in  his  little  room—he'd 
had  his  own  furniture  moved  in  and  the  walls  were  covered  with 
pictures—  drinking  Tom  Collinses  and  talking  about  life.  He  had 
lots  of  ideas  about  life,  and  about  matrimony,  too,  and  I  got 
quite  interested,  listening  to  him.  But  then  he'd  go  into  the 
dinners  he  used  to  give  at  Dclmonico's,  and  while  that  was  inter- 


Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 

esting,  too,  it  wasn't  much  help,  except  to  take  your  mind  off  the 
summer  chintz. 

He  had  sonic  sort  of  small  job,  downtown,  but  I  guess  he 
had  an  income  from  his  family  too.  He  must  have.  But  when 
Td  ask  him  what  he  did,  he'd  always  say,  "I'm  retired,  my  boy, 
very  much  retired,  and  how  about  a  touch  more  beverage  to 
keep  out  the  sun?"  He  always  called  it  beverage,  but  they  knew 
what  he  meant  at  the  bar.  He  turned  up  at  the  wedding,  when 
Lisa  and  I  were  married,  all  dressed  up  in  a  cutaway,  and  insisted 
on  making  us  a  little  speech— very  nice  it  was  too.  Then  we  had 
him  to  dinner  a  couple  of  times,  after  we'd  got  back,  and  some- 
how or  other,  I  haven't  seen  him  since.  I  suppose  he's  still  at  the 
club— I've  got  out  of  the  habit  of  going  there,  since  I  joined  the 
other  ones,  though  I  still  keep  my  membership. 

Of  course,  all  that  time,  I  was  crazy  about  Lisa  and  writing 
her  letters  and  waiting  till  we  could  be  married.  Of  course  I  was. 
But,  now  and  then,  even  that  would  get  shoved  into  the  back- 
ground. Because  there  was  so  much  to  do  and  arrangements  to 
make  and  people  like  lawyers  to  see.  I  don't  like  lawyers  very 
much,  even  yet,  though  the  people  we  had  were  very  good. 
But  there  was  all  the  telephoning  and  the  conferences.  Somehow, 
it  was  like  a  machine— a  big  machine— and  you  had  to  learn  a  sort 
of  new  etiquette  for  everything  you  did.  Till,  finally,  it  got 
so  that  about  all  you  wanted  was  to  have  the  fuss  over  and  not 
talk  about  it  any  more. 

I  remember  running  into  Chick  Bewleigh  in  the  club,  three 
days  before  Sally  got  her  decree.  You'd  like  Chick— he's  the  in- 
tellectual type,  but  a  darn  good  fellow  too.  And  Nan,  his  wife, 
is  a  peach— one  of  those  big,  rangy  girls  with  a  crazy  sense  of 
humor.  It  was  nice  to  talk  to  him  because  he  was  natural  and 
didn't  make  any  cracks  about  grass-bachelors  or  get  that  look  in 
his  eye.  You  know  the  look  they  get.  We  talked  about  Meadow- 
field—just  the  usual  news— the  Bakers  were  splitting  up  and  Don 
Sikes  had  a  new  job  and  the  Wilsons  were  having  a  baby.  But 
it  seemed  good  to  hear  it. 

"For  that  matter,"  he  said,  drawing  on  his  pipe,  "we're  adding 
t|o  the  population  again  ourselves.  In  the  fall.  How  we'll  ever 
manage  four  of  them!  I  keep  telling  Nan  she's  cockeyed,  but 
she  says  they're  more  fun  than  a  swimming  pool  and  cost  less  to 
keep  up,  so  what  can  you  do!" 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

He  shook  his  head  and  I  remembered  that  Sally  always  used 
to  say  she  wanted  six.  Only  now  it  would  be  Lisa,  so  I  mustn't 
think  about  that. 

"So  that's  your  recipe  for  a  happy  marriage,"  I  said.  "Well,  I 
always  wondered." 

I  was  kidding,  of  course,  but  he  looked  quite  serious. 

"Kinder,  Kiiche  und  Kirche?"  he  said.  "Nope,  that  doesn't 
work  any  more,  what  with  pre-schools,  automats  and  the  movies. 
Four  children  or  no  four  children,  Nan  could  still  raise  hell  if 
she  felt  like  raising  hell.  And  so  could  I,  for  that  matter.  Add 
blessings  of  civilization,"  and  his  eyes  twinkled. 

"Well  then,"  I  said,  "what  is  it?"  I  really  wanted  to  know. 

"Oh,  just  bull  luck,  I  suppose.  And  happening  to  like  what 
you've  got,"  he  answered,  in  a  sort  of  embarrassed  way. 

"You  can  do  that,"  I  said.  "And  yet — " 

He  looked  awray  from  me. 

"Oh,  it  was  a  lot  simpler  in  the  old  days,"  he  said.  "Everything 
was  for  marriage— church,  laws,  society.  And  when  people  got 
married,  they  expected  to  stay  that  way.  And  it  made  a  lot  of 
people  as  unhappy  as  hell.  Now  the  expectation's  rather  the 
other  way,  at  least  in  this  great  and  beautiful  nation  and  among 
people  like  us.  If  you  get  a  divorce,  it's  rather  like  going  to  the 
dentist— unpleasant  sometimes,  but  lots  of  people  have  been  there 
before.  Well,  that's  a  handsome  system,  too,  but  it's  got  its  own 
casualty  list.  So  there  you  are.  You  takes  your  money  and  you 
makes  your  choice.  And  some  of  us  like  freedom  better  than 
the  institution  and  some  of  us  like  the  institution  better,  but  what 
most  of  us  would  like  is  to  be  Don  Juan  on  Thursdays  and  Bene- 
dick, the  married  man,  on  Fridays,  Saturdays  and  the  rest  of  the 
week.  Only  that's  a  bit  hard  to  work  out,  somehow,"  and  he 

"All  the  same,"  I  said,  "you  and  Nan — " 

"Well,"  he  said,  "I  suppose  we're  exceptions.  You  see,  my 
parents  weren't  married  till  I  was  seven.  So  I'm  a  conservative. 
It  might  have  worked  out  the  other  way." 

"Oh,"  I  said. 

"Yes,"  he  said.  "My  mother  was  English,  and  you  may  have 
heard  of  English  divorce  laws.  She  ran  away  with  my  father  and 
she  was  perfectly  right—her  husband  was  a  very  extensive  brute. 
All  the  same,  I  was  brought  up  on  the  other  side  of  the  fence, 


Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 

and  I  know  something  about  what  it's  like.  And  Nan  was  a  min- 
ister's daughter  who  thought  she  ought  to  be  free.  Well,  we 
argued  about  things  a  good  deal.  And,  finally,  I  told  her  that  I'd 
be  very  highly  complimented  to  live  with  her  on  any  terms  at  all, 
but  if  she  wanted  to  get  married,  she'd  have  to  expect  a  marriage, 
not  a  trip  to  Coney  Island.  And  I  made  my  point  rather  clear 
by  blacking  her  eye,  in  a  taxi,  when  she  told  me  she  was  thinking 
seriously  of  spending  a  week  end  with  my  deadly  rival,  just  to 
see  which  one  of  us  she  really  loved.  You  can't  spend  a  romantic 
week  end  with  somebody  when  you've  got  a  black  eye.  But  you 
can  get  married  with  one  and  we  did.  She  had  raw  beefsteak 
on  it  till  two  hours  before  the  wedding,  and  it  was  the  prettiest 
sight  I  ever  saw.  Well,  that's  our  simple  story." 

"Not  all  of  it,"  I  said. 

"No,"  he  said,  "not  all  of  it.  But  at  least  we  didn't  start  in 
with  any  of  this  bunk  about  if  you  meet  a  handsomer  fellow  it's 
all  off.  We  knew  wre  were  getting  into  something.  Bewleigh's 
Easy  Guide  to  Marriage  in  three  installments— you  are  now  lis- 
tening to  the  Voice  of  Experience,  and  who  cares?  Of  course, 
if  we  hadn't— ahem— liked  each  other,  I  could  have  blacked  her 
eye  till  doomsday  and  got  nothing  out  of  it  but  a  suit  for 
assault  and  battery.  But  nothing's  much  good  unless  it's  worth 
fighting  for.  And  she  doesn't  look  exactly  like  a  downtrodden 

"Nope,"  I  said,  "but  all  the  same — " 

He  stared  at  me  very  hard— almost  the  way  he  used  to  when 
people  were  explaining  that  stocks  had  reached  a  permanently 
high  plateau. 

"Exactly,"  he  said.  "And  there  comes  a  time,  no  matter  what 
the  intention,  when  a  new  face  heaves  into  view  and  a  spark 
lights.  I'm  no  Adonis,  God  knows,  but  it's  happened  to  me  once 
or  twice.  And  I  know  what  I  do  then.  I  run.  I  run  like  a  rabbit. 
It  isn't  courageous  or  adventurous  or  fine.  It  isn't  even  particu- 
larly moral,  as  I  think  about  morals.  But  I  run.  Because,  when  all's 
said  and  done,  it  takes  two  people  to  make  a  love  affair  and  you 
can't  have  it  when  one  of  them's  no*  there.  And,  dammit,  Nan 
knows  it,  that's  the  trouble.  She'd  ask  Helen  of  Troy  to  dinner 
just  to  see  me  run.  Well,  good-by,  old  man,  and  our  best  to 
Lisa,  of  course — " 

After  he  was  gone,  I  went  and  had  dinner  in  the  grill.  I  did 

Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

a  lot  of  thinking  at  dinner,  but  it  didn't  get  me  anywhere.  When 
I  was  back  in  the  room,  I  took  the  receiver  off  the  telephone. 
I  was  going  to  call  long  distance.  But  your  voice  sounds  different 
on  the  phone,  and,  anyway,  the  decree  would  be  granted  in  three 
days.  So  when  the  girl  answered,  I  told  her  it  was  a  mistake. 

Next  week  Lisa  came  back  and  she  and  I  were  married.  We 
went  to  Bermuda  on  our  wedding  trip.  It's  a  very  pretty  place. 
Do  you  know,  they  won't  allow  an  automobile  on  the  island? 

The  queer  thing  was  that  at  first  I  didn't  feel  married  to  Lisa 
at  all.  I  mean,  on  the  boat,  and  even  at  the  hotel.  She  said,  "But 
how  exciting,  darling!"  and  I  suppose  it  was. 

Now,  of  course,  we've  been  married  eight  years,  and  that's 
always  different.  The  twins  will  be  seven  in  May—two  years 
older  than  Sally's  Jerry.  I  had  an  idea  for  a  while  that  Sally  might 
marry  Jim  Blake—he  always  admired  her.  But  I'm  glad  she 
didn't— it  would  have  made  things  a  little  too  complicated.  And 
I  like  McConaghey— I  like  him  fine.  We  gave  them  an  old  Chinese 
jar  for  a  wedding  present.  Lisa  picked  it  out.  She  has  very  good 
taste  and  Sally  wrote  us  a  fine  letter. 

I'd  like  to  have  you  meet  Lisa  sometime—she's  interested  in 
intelligent  people.  They're  always  coming  to  the  apartment- 
artists  and  writers  and  people  like  that. 

Of  course,  they  don't  always  turn  out  the  way  she  expects. 
But  she's  quite  a  hostess  and  she  knows  how  to  handle  things. 
There  was  one  youngster  that  used  to  rather  get  in  my  hair. 
He'd  call  me  the  Man  of  Wall  Street  and  ask  me  what  I  thought 
about  Picabia  or  one  of  those  birds,  in  a  way  that  sort  of  said, 
"Now  watch  this  guy  stumble!"  But  as  soon  as  Lisa  noticed  it, 
she  got  rid  of  him.  That  shows  she's  considerate. 

Of  course,  it's  different,  being  married  to  a  person.  And  I'm 
pretty  busy  these  days  and  so  is  she.  Sometimes,  if  I  get  home 
and  there's  going  to  be  a  party,  I'll  just  say  good  night  to  the 
twins  and  fade  out  after  dinner.  But  Lisa  understands  about  that, 
and  I've  got  my  own  quarters.  She  had  one  of  her  decorator 
friends  do  the  private  study  and  it  really  looks  very  nice. 

I  had  Jim  Blake  in  there  one  night.  Well)  I  had  to  take  him 
somewhere.  He  was  getting  pretty  noisy  and  Lisa  gave  me  the 
high  sign.  He's  doing  very  well,  but  he  looks  pretty  hard  these 
days  and  I'm  afraid  he's  drinking  a  good  deal,  though  he  doesn't 
often  show  it.  I  don't  think  he  ever  quite  got  over  Sylvia's  dying. 


Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 

Four  years  ago.  They  had  scarlet  fever  at  the  school.  It  was  a 
great  shock  to  Lisa,  too,  of  course,  but  she  had  the  twins  and 
Jim  never  married  again.  But  he  comes  to  see  us,  every  once  in 
a  while.  Once,  when  he  was  tight,  he  said  it  was  to  convince 
himself  about  remaining  a  bachelor,  but  I  don't  think  he  meant 

Now,  when  I  brought  him  into  the  study,  he  looked  around 
and  said,  "Shades  of  Buck  Rogers!  What  one  of  Lisa's  little 
dears  produced  this  imitation  Wellsian  nightmare?" 

"Oh,  I  don't  remember,"  I  said.  "I  think  his  name  was  Slivo- 

"It  looks  as  if  it  had  been  designed  by  a  man  named  Slivovitz," 
he  said.  "All  dental  steel  and  black  glass.  I  recognize  the  Lisa 
touch.  You're  lucky  she  didn't  put  murals  of  cogwheels  on  the 

"Well,  there  was  a  question  of  that,"  I  said. 

"I  bet  there  was,"  he  said.  "Well,  here's  how,  old  man!  Here's 
to  two  great  big  wonderful  institutions,  marriage  and  divorce!" 

I  didn't  like  that  very  much  and  told  him  so.  But  he  just 
wagged  his  head  at  me. 

"I  like  you,  Painter,"  he  said.  "I  always  did.  Sometimes  I  think 
you're  goofy,  but  I  like  you.  You  can't  insult  me— I  won't  let 
you.  And  it  isn't  your  fault." 

"What  isn't  my  fault?"  I  said. 

"The  setup,"  he  said.  "Because,  in  your  simple  little  heart, 
you're  an  honest  monogamous  man,  Painter— monogamous  as 
most.  And  if  you'd  stayed  married  to  Sally,  you'd  have  led  an 
honest  monogamous  life.  But  they  loaded  the  dice  against  you, 
out  at  Meadowfield,  and  now  Lord  knows  where  you'll  end  up. 
After  all,  I  was  married  to  Lisa  myself  for  six  years  or  so.  Tell 
me,  isn't  it  hell?" 

"You're  drunk,"  I  said. 

"In  vino  veritas"  said  he.  "No,  it  isn't  hell— I  take  that  back. 
Lisa's  got  her  damn-fool  side,  but  she's  an  attractive  and  interest- 
ing woman— or  could  be,  if  she'd  work  at  it.  But  she  was  brought 
up  on  the  idea  of  Romance  with  a  big  R,  and  she's  too  bone-lazy 
and  bone-selfish  to  work  at  it  very  long.  There's  always  some- 
thing else,  just  over  the  horizon.  Well,  I  got  tired  of  fighting 
that,  after  a  while.  And  so  will  you.  She  doesn't  want  husbands 
—she  wants  clients  and  followers.  Or  maybe  you're  tired  already." 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"I  think  you'd  better  go  home,  Jim,"  I  said.  "I  don't  want  to 
have  to  ask  you." 

"Sorry,"  he  said.  "In  vino  veritas.  But  it's  a  funny  setup,  isn't 
it?  What  Lisa  wanted  was  a  romantic  escapade— and  she  got 
twins.  And  what  you  wanted  was  marriage— and  you  got  Lisa. 
As  for  me,"  and  for  a  minute  his  face  didn't  look  drunk  any 
more,  "what  I  principally  wanted  was  Sylvia  and  I've  lost  that. 
I  could  have  married  again,  but  I  didn't  think  that'd  be  good 
for  her.  Now,  I'll  probably  marry  some  client  I've  helped  with 
her  decree— we  don't  touch  divorce,  as  a  rule,  just  a  very,  very 
special  line  of  business  for  a  few  important  patrons.  I  know 
those— I've  had  them  in  the  office.  And  won't  that  be  fun  for  us 
all!  What  a  setup  it  is!"  and  he  slumped  down  in  his  chair  and 
went  to  sleep.  I  let  him  sleep  for  a  while  and  then  had  Briggs 
take  him  down  in  the  other  elevator.  He  called  up  next  day  and 
apologized— said  he  knew  he  must  have  been  noisy,  though  he 
couldn't  remember  anything  he  said. 

The  other  time  I  had  somebody  in  the  study  was  when  Sally 
came  back  there  once,  two  years  ago.  We'd  met  to  talk  about 
college  for  Barbara  and  I'd  forgotten  some  papers  I  wanted  to 
show  her.  We  generally  meet  downtown.  But  she  didn't  mind 
coming  back— Lisa  was  out,  as  it  happened.  It  made  me  feel  queer, 
taking  her  up  in  the  elevator  and  letting  her  in  at  the  door.  She 
wasn't  like  Jim— she  thought  the  study  was  nice. 

Well,  we  talked  over  our  business  and  I  kept  looking  at  her. 
You  can  see  she's  older,  but  her  eyes  are  still  that  very  bright 
blue,  and  she  bites  her  thumb  when  she's  interested.  It's  a  queer 
feeling.  Of  course,  I  was  used  to  seeing  her,  but  we  usually  met 
downtown.  You  know,  I  wouldn't  have  been  a  bit  surprised  if 
she'd  pushed  the  bell  and  said,  "Tea,  Briggs,  I'm  home."  She 
didn't,  naturally. 

I  asked  her,  once,  if  she  wouldn't  take  off  her  hat  and  she 
looked  at  me  in  a  queer  way  and  said,  "So  you  can  show  me  your 
etchings?  Dan,  Dan,  you're  a  dangerous  man!"  and  for  a  moment 
we  both  laughed  like  fools. 

"Oh,  dear,"  she  said,  drying  her  eyes,  "that's  very  funny.  And 
now  I  must  be  going  home." 

"Look  here,  Sally,"  I  said,  "I've  always  told  you— but,  honestly, 
if  you  need  anything— if  there's  anything — " 


Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 

"Of  course,  Dan,"  she  said.  "And  we're  awfully  good  friends, 
aren't  we?"  But  she  was  still  smiling. 

I  didn't  care.  "Friends!"  I  said.  "You  know  how  I  think  about 
you.  I  always  have.  And  I  don't  want  you  to  think — " 

She  patted  my  shoulder—I'd  forgotten  the  way  she  used  to 
do  that. 

"There,"  she  said.  "Mother  knows  all  about  it.  And  we  really 
are  friends,  Dan.  So — " 

"I  was  a  fool." 

She  looked  at  me  very  steadily  out  of  those  eyes. 

"We  were  all  fools,"  she  said.  "Even  Lisa.  I  used  to  hate  her 
for  a  while.  I  used  to  hope  things  would  happen  to  her.  Oh,  not 
very  bad  things.  Just  her  finding  out  that  you  never  see  a 
crooked  picture  without  straightening  it,  and  hearing  you  say: 
*A  bird  can't  fly  on  one  wing,'  for  the  dozenth  time.  The  little 
things  everybody  has  to  find  out  and  put  up  with.  But  I  don't 
even  do  that  any  more." 

"If  you'd  ever  learned  to  put  a  cork  back  in  a  bottle,"  I  said. 
"I  mean  the  right  cork  in  the  right  bottle.  But — " 

"I  do  so!  No,  I  suppose  I  never  will."  And  she  laughed.  She 
took  my  hands.  "Funny,  funny,  funny,"  she  said.  "And  funny  to 
have  it  all  gone  and  be  friends." 

"Is  it  all  gone?  "I  said. 

"Why,  no,  of  course  not,"  she  said.  "I  don't  suppose  it  ever 
is,  quite.  Like  the  boys  who  took  you  to  dances.  And  there's 
the  children,  and  you  can't  help  remembering.  But  it's  gone. 
We  had  it  and  lost  it.  I  should  have  fought  for  it  more,  I  sup- 
pose, but  I  didn't.  And  then  I  was  terribly  hurt  and  terribly  mad. 
But  I  got  over  that.  And  now  I'm  married  to  Jerry.  And  I 
wouldn't  give  him  up,  or  Jerry  Junior,  for  anything  in  the  world. 
The  only  thing  that  worries  me  is  sometimes  when  I  think  it 
isn't  quite  a  fair  deal  for  him.  After  all,  he  could  have  married- 
well,  somebody  else.  And  yet  he  knows  I  love  him." 

"He  ought  to,"  I  said  rather  stiffly.  "He's  a  darn  lucky  guy,  if 
you  ask  me." 

"No,  Dan,  I'm  the  lucky  girl.  I'm  hoping  this  minute  that 
Mrs.  Potter's  X-rays  turn  out  all  right.  He  did  a  beautiful  job 
on  her.  But  he  always  worries." 

I  dropped  her  hands. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

"Well,  give  him  my  best,"  I  said. 

"I  will,  Dan.  He  likes  you,  you  know.  Really  he  does.  By  the 
way,  have  you  had  any  more  of  that  bursitis?  There's  a  new 
treatment— he  wanted  me  to  ask  you — " 

"Thanks,"  I  said,  "but  that  all  cleared  up."     . 

"I'm  glad.  And  now  I  must  fly.  There's  always  shopping  when 

rou  come  in  from  the  suburbs.  Give  my  best  to  Lisa  and  tell  her 
was  sorry  not  to  see  her.  She's  out,  I  suppose." 

"Yes,"  I  said.  "She'll  be  sorry  to  miss  you— you  wouldn't  stay 
for  a  cocktail?  She's  usually  in  around  then." 

"It  sounds  very  dashing,  but  I  mustn't.  Jerry  Junior  lost  one  of 
his  turtles  and  I've  got  to  get  him  another.  Do  you  know  a  good 
pet  shop?  Well,  Bloomingdale's,  I  suppose— after  all,  I've  got 
other  things  to  get." 

"There's  a  good  one  two  blocks  down  on  Lexington,"  I  said. 
"But  if  you're  going  to  Bloomingdale's —  Well,  good-by,  Sally, 
and  good  luck." 

"Good-by,  Dan.  And  good  luck  to  you.  And  no  regrets." 

"No  regrets,"  I  said,  and  we  shook  hands. 

There  wasn't  any  point  in  going  down  to  the  street  with  her, 
and  besides  I  had  to  phone  the  office.  But  before  I  did,  I  looked 
out,  and  she  was  just  getting  into  a  cab.  A  person  looks  different, 
somehow,  when  they  don't  know  you're  seeing  them.  I  could 
see  the  way  she  looked  to  other  people— not  young  any  more,  not 
the  Sally  I'd  married,  not  even  the  Sally  I'd  talked  with,  all  night 
in  that  cold  house.  She  was  a  nice  married  woman  who  lived  in 
Montclair  and  whose  husband  was  a  doctor;  a  nice  woman,  in 
shopping  for  the  day,  with  a  new  spring  hat  and  a  fifty-trip  ticket 
in  her  handbag.  She'd  had  trouble  in  her  life,  but  she'd  worked 
it  out.  And,  before  she  got  on  the  train,  she'd  have  a  black-and- 
white  soda,  sitting  on  a  stool  at  the  station,  or  maybe  she  didn't 
do  that  any  more.  There'd  be  lots  of  things  in  her  handbag,  but 
I  wouldn't  know  about  any  of  them  nor  what  locks  the  keys 
fitted.  And,  if  she  were  dying,  they'd  send  for  me,  because  that 
would  be  etiquette.  And  the  same  if  I  were  dying.  But  we'd  had 
something  and  lost  it— the  way  she  said— and  that  was  all  that  was 

Now  she  was  that  nice  Mrs.  McConaghey.  But  she'd  never  be 
quite  that  to  me.  And  yet,  there  was  no  way  to  go  back.  You 

Everybody  Was  Very  Nice 

couldn't  even  go  back  to  the  house  in  Meadowfield— they'd  torn 
it  down  and  put  up  an  apartment  instead. 

So  that's  why  I  wanted  to  talk  to  you.  I'm  not  complaining 
and  I'm  not  the  kind  of  fellow  that  gets  nerves.  But  I  just  want 
to  know— I  just  want  to  figure  it  out.  And  sometimes  it  keeps 
going  round  and  round  in  your  head.  You'd  like  to  be  able  to  tell 
your  children  something,  especially  when  they're  growing  up. 
Well,  I  know  what  we'll  tell  them.  But  I  wonder  if  it's  enough. 

Not  that  we  don't  get  along  well  when  Bud  and  Barbara  come 
to  see  us.  Especially  Barbara— she's  very  tactful  and  she's  crazy 
about  the  twins.  And  now  they're  growing  up,  it's  easier.  Only, 
once  in  a  while,  something  happens  that  makes  you  think.  I  took 
Barbara  out  sailing  last  summer.  She's  sixteen  and  a  very  sweet 
kid,  if  I  say  it  myself.  A  lot  of  kids  that  age  seem  pretty  hard, 
but  she  isn't. 

Well,  we  were  just  talking  along,  and,  naturally,  you  like  to 
know  what  your  children's  plans  are.  Bud  thinks  he  wants  to  be 
a  doctor  like  McConaghey  and  I've  no  objection.  I  asked  Barbara 
if  she  wanted  a  career,  but  she  said  she  didn't  think  so. 

"Oh,  I'd  like  to  go  to  college,"  she  said,  "and  maybe  work  for 
a  while,  afterwards,  the  way  mother  did,  you  know.  But  I 
haven't  any  particular  talents,  dad.  I  could  kid  myself,  but  I 
haven't.  I  guess  it's  just  woman's  function  and  home  and  babies 
for  me." 

"Well,  that  sounds  all  right  to  me,"  I  said,  feeling  very  paternal. 

"Yes,"  she  said,  "I  like  babies.  In  fact,  I  think  I'll  get  married 
pretty  young,  just  for  the  experience.  The  first  time  probably 
won't  work,  but  it  ought  to  teach  you  some  things.  And  then, 
eventually,  you  might  find  somebody  to  tie  to." 

"So  that's  the  way  it  is  with  the  modern  young  woman?"  I  said. 

"Why,  of  course,"  she  said.  "That's  what  practically  all  the 
girls  say— we've  talked  it  all  over  at  school.  Of  course,  sometimes 
it  takes  you  quite  a  while.  Like  Helen  Hastings'  mother.  She  just 
got  married  for  the  fourth  time  last  year,  but  he  really  is  a  sweet! 
He  took  us  all  to  the  matinee  when  I  was  visiting  Helen  and  we 
nearly  died.  He's  a  count,  of  course,  and  he's  got  the  darlingest 
accent.  I  don't  know  whether  I'd  like  a  count,  though  it  must 
be  fun  to  have  little  crowns  on  your  handkerchiefs  like  Helen's 
mother.  What's  the  matter,  daddy?  Are  you  shocked?" 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

"Don't  flatter  yourself,  young  lady— I've  been  shocked  by  ex- 
perts," I  said.  "No,  I  was  just  thinking.  Suppose  we— well,  sup- 
pose your  mother  and  I  had  stayed  together?  How  would  you 
have  felt  about  it  then?" 

"But  you  didn't,  did  you?"  she  said,  and  her  voice  wasn't  hurt 
or  anything,  just  natural.  "I  mean,  almost  nobody  does  any  more. 
Don't  worry,  daddy.  Bud  and  I  understand  all  about  it— good 
gracious,  we're  grown  up!  Of  course,  if  you  and  mother  had," 
she  said,  rather  dutifully,  "I  suppose  it  would  have  been  very 
nice.  But  then  we'd  have  missed  Mac,  and  he  really  is  a  sweet, 
and  you'd  have  missed  Lisa  and  the  twins.  Anyhow,  it's  all 
worked  out  now.  Oh,  of  course,  I'd  rather  hope  it  would  turn 
out  all  right  the  first  time,  if  it  wasn't  too  stodgy  or  sinister.  But 
you've  got  to  face  facts,  you  know." 

"Face  facts!"  I  said.  "Dammit,  Barbara!" 

Then  I  stopped,  because  what  did  I  have  to  say? 

Well,  that's  the  works,  and  if  you've  got  any  dope  on  it,  I 
wish  you'd  tell  me.  There  are  so  few  people  you  can  talk  to— 
that's  the  trouble.  I  mean  everybody's  very  nice,  but  that's  not  the 
same  thing.  And,  if  you  start  thinking  too  much,  the  highballs 
catch  up  on  you.  And  you  can't  afford  that— I've  never  been 
much  of  a  drinking  man. 

The  only  thing  is,  where  does  it  stop,  if  it  does?  That's  the 
thing  I'm  really  afraid  of. 

It  may  sound  silly  to  you.  But  I've  seen  other  people— well, 
take  this  Mrs.  Hastings,  Barbara  talked  about.  Or  my  old  friend 
at  the  club.  I  wonder  if  he  started  in,  wanting  to  get  married  four 
times.  I  know  I  didn't— I'm  not  the  type  and  you  know  it. 

And  yet,  suppose,  well,  you  do  meet  somebody  who  treats  you 
like  a  human  being.  I  mean  somebody  who  doesn't  think  you're 
a  little  goofy  because  you  know  more  about  American  Can  than 
who  painted  what.  Supposing,  even,  they're  quite  a  lot  younger. 
That  shouldn't  make  all  the  difference.  After  all,  I'm  no  Lo- 
thario. And  Lisa  and  I  aren't  thinking  of  divorce  or  anything  like 
that.  But,  naturally,  we  lead  our  own  lives,  and  you  ought  to  be 
able  to  talk  to  somebody.  Of  course,  if  it  could  have  been  Sally. 
That  was  my  fault.  But  it  isn't  as  if  Maureen  were  just  in  the 
floor  show.  She's  got  her  own  specialty  number.  And,  really, 
when  you  get  to  know  her,  she's  a  darned  intelligent  kid. 


I  like  it,  winter  or  summer.  But  I  guess  I  like  it  the  best  when  it 
gets  really  hot  and  they  turn  on  the  fire  hydrants  for  a  while  and 
the  little  kids  splash  in  the  water.  That's  when  the  noise  lasts 
till  after  twelve  and,  if  you  look  out  of  the  window,  you  can  see 
a  man  in  his  shirt  sleeves  and  his  fat  wife  beside  him,  sitting  out 
in  front  of  the  store  in  a  couple  of  kitchen  chairs.  I  know  no- 
body's supposed  to.  But  that's  the  way  I  like  New  York. 

No,  I  was  born  in  Brooklyn,  but  I  don't  remember  much  about 
that.  We  moved  to  the  East  Side  afterwards,  before  I  could  re- 
member. The  old  man  was  a  watch  repairer— I  guess  that's  where 
I  get  my  liking  for  tinkering  at  things.  He  worked  at  Logan's, 
up  on  Fourteenth,  and  I  remember  how  disappointed  I  was  when 
I  found  he  didn't  own  the  whole  store.  He  was  Swiss  and  Ma 
was  Irish,  so  I've  got  the  two  sides  to  me.  They  get  along  well 
enough,  usually,  but  sometimes  they  fight. 

I  know  now  he  had  disappointments,  but  I  didn't  know  it  as 
a  kid.  He  was  always  talking  about  a  nice  place  in  the  country, 
with  chickens,  but  he  never  got  there.  Once  or  twice,  before  I 
was  born,— I  came  along  kind  of  later,— he  tried  to  set  up  in  a 
small  town.  But  something  always  happened,  and  he  had  to  come 
back  to  the  city.  He  didn't  really  object  to  it,  but  he  felt  it  wasn't 
right  to  raise  his  kids  there.  But  Ma  always  said  it  was  up  to  her 
to  take  care  of  that.  She  did  a  good  job  by  us,  too,  and  she  kissed 
me  on  both  sides  of  my  face  when  I  got  the  silver  medal  for 
penmanship  at  St.  Aloysius's.  I  didn't  tell  her  it  was  because  I'd 
promised  Jerry  Toole  I'd  beat  the  mush  off  him  if  he  came  in 
ahead  of  me.  He  was  always  the  one  to  get  the  prizes,  and  I 
thought  it  was  time  I  had  one  of  my  own  to  take  home  and 
show.  My  old  man  made  a  little  wooden  box  for  it  and  carved 
my  initials  on  top.  It  took  him  quite  a  little  while  to  do  it,— he 
was  a  slow  worker,  but  very  careful,— but  it  pleased  him  a  lot. 
And  me,  too. 

I  guess  I  don't  know  how  to  tell  a  story,  because,  when  I  think 
about  it,  it  gets  all  mixed  up.  They  ask  you  what  was  the  city 
like,  in  those  days,  and  what  are  you  going  to  tell  them?  I  re- 
member the  horsecars,  to  be  sure,  and  the  gaslights  in  the  streets, 

Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

and  the  tangle  of  overhead  wires,  like  a  crazy  spiderweb,  and 
the  big  white  stages.  But,  when  you  begin  thinking  back,  you 
don't  know  if  you're  right  or  not.  My  old  man  had  big  gray 
moustaches  that  went  out  like  a  pair  of  wings,  and  he  always 
wore  a  derby  hat  to  his  work.  It  was  rounder,  somehow,  than 
they  make  derbies  now— I'd  recognize  it  among  a  million,  but 
they  don't  have  them  any  more.  And,  when  Ma  was  baking, 
you  could  smell  the  clean,  fresh  bread  all  over  the  house.  The 
first  policeman  I  ever  saw  was  standing  under  a  gaslight,  twirling 
his  stick  in  front  of  his  belly.  We  called  him  Mister  Ryan  and 
I  thought  him  the  greatest  and  largest  man  in  the  world.  Well, 
that's  the  thing  you  remember.  That,  and  the  sprinkling  carts, 
and  the  brown  afternoon  in  the  street,  and  the  old  woman  who 
sold  hot  chestnuts,  with  her  cheeks  as  red  as  red  apples,  a  winter 
evening,  under  the  El,  when  the  horses  were  slipping  on  the  ice. 

All  the  same,  it  wasn't  so  big,  then.  I  remember  when  the  Flat- 
iron  was  the  biggest  one  and  the  out-of-town  people  bought 
postcards,  just  the  way  they  do,  this  moment,  with  the  Empire 
State.  It  got  built  without  our  knowing  it,  almost— it  went  up 
into  the  sky.  Nobody  decided  about  it— ft  stretched  like  a  boy 
growing  up,  and  now,  there  it  is.  The  city,  I  mean— yes,  the  city. 
I  remember  my  tall,  laughing  Irish  uncles  stamping  into  the  house 
and  swinging  Ma  from  one  to  another  of  them  and  kissing  her 
till  she'd  slap  their  faces.  She  was  always  little  Katy,  the  bird,  to 
them,  though  she'd  had  a  great  hand  in  bringing  most  of  them 
up.  I  remember  when  Uncle  Ally  got  in  the  Fire  Department 
and  his  coming  around,  proud  as  Punch,  to  show  us  his  new  uni- 
form. A  well-set-up  man  he  was,  and  his  helmet  very  impressive. 
He  was  killed  in  a  big  loft  fire  in  the  garment  district,  the  year 
that  I  was  sixteen.  The  whole  wall  fell  like  a  stone  and  they 
couldn't  get  the  bodies  for  two  days. 

All  the  same,  they  gave  the  three  of  them  a  Department 
funeral  and  there  were  pieces  in  all  the  papers  about  it.  I  think 
it  helped  break  Ma's  heart— he  was  her  favorite  brother.  But  I 
rode  in  the  carriage  with  her  and  she  sat  up  straight  as  a  ramrod, 
in  her  new  black  clothes.  Afterwards  she  had  me  cut  the  pieces 
out  of  the  papers,  and  it  wasn't  till  night  that  I  heard  her  crying. 
I  can  hear  the  cry  in  my  ears,  thougn  it's  many  years  gone. 

My  old  man  and  my  uncles  were  polite  enough  to  each  other, 
but  they  didn't  really  get  along.  He  liked  to  sit  out  on  the 


All  Around  the  Town 

stoop,  after  dinner,  smoking  his  big  pipe  with  the  silver  lid  on 
it  and  reading  the  evening  paper.  But  he  was  a  quiet  man,  and 
when  my  uncles  came  in,  full  of  life  and  gayety,  he'd  have  less 
to  say  than  ever,  though  he  always  sent  to  the  corner  for  the 
beer.  He'd  never  have  a  drop  of  whiskey  in  the  house,  except 
for  medical  purposes—but  he  liked  the  steam  beer  at  Schaeffer's, 
though  I  never  saw  him  take  too  much.  The  day  he  came  home 
with  the  chill,  Ma  made  him  a  toddy,  but  even  then  he  wouldn't 
take  it.  It  scared  me  to  see  him  in  bed  in  the  daytime,  with  his 
red-bordered  nightshirt  on.  When  you're  young,  you  never 
think  your  parents  can  get  sick  or  die.  I  remember  that.  But  he 
got  over  it;  and  it  wasn't  till  after  I  was  married  that  he  died. 

He  liked  Eileen  and  she  was  very  good  to  him— I'll  always  re- 
member that.  She  used  to  call  him  Father  Weiss,— she  was  dainty 
in  her  conversation,— but  he'd  always  say,  "Joost  Poppa,  mem 
liebliches  Kind'''  Then  he'd  stroke  her  hand,  very  gently,  with  the 
tips  of  his  big,  clever  fingers.  That  was  after  Ala  had  gone,  and 
we  had  the  responsibility.  The  girls  did  what  they  could,  but, 
of  course,  they  had  their  own  families  by  then,  except  Nellie,  and 
she  wouldn't  come  to  see  him  if  any  of  the  others  were  coming. 

It  wouldn't  be  held  a  disgrace,  now— certainly  not.  The  kids 
pray  to  go  into  the  movies— and  isn't  that  the  same?  But  we  held 
it  a  disgrace  to  us.  I  guess  Nellie  was  my  favorite  sister— she  took 
more  after  the  uncles  than  the  rest  of  us.  She  wasn't  pretty, 
exactly,  but  she  had  a  black-haired  imp  in  her,  and  she  was  the 
first  to  marry  of  all  the  girls.  I  can  see  her  face  under  the  bridal 
veil,  looking  frightened.  That's  funny  for  Nellie  O'Mara,  the 
Wild  Irish  Rose.  O'Mara  was  my  grandda's  name— she  took  it 
when  she  ran  off  with  her  piano  pounder  and  started  showing 
her  legs  on  the  public  stage.  The  old  man,  queer  enough,  didn't 
mind  so  much— he  had  European  ideas  about  the  theatre.  But 
Ma  was  horrified  and  so  were  the  other  girls. 

I  was  horrified  myself— I  had  to  fight  three  boys  on  account 
of  it.  And  Nellie's  husband,  Ed  Meany,  would  come  around  and 
sit  on  the  stoop,  looking  as  if  he'd  just  had  a  tooth  pulled  and 
telling  all  he'd  done  for  Nellie,  and  how,  even  now,  he'd  been 
willing  to  take  her  back.  He  was  a  good  man,  no  doubt,  but  he 
talked  till  you'd  feel  like  shooting  him.  It  wasn't  till  I  had  my 
own  trouble  that  I  knew  how  he  felt. 

The  other  girls  married  all  right  and  respectable,— Grace  and 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

Kathleen,— though  I  never  did  think  much  of  Carl  Schuhmacher. 
He  always  looked  too  much  like  one  of  his  own  sirloin  steaks, 
but  that  was  Grace's  affair,  not  mine,  and  the  meat  market's  a 
good  business.  We  thought  she  could  have  done  better  for  her- 
self, but  I  don't  know,  as  things  turned  out.  He  had  some  trouble, 
during  the  war,  till  young  Carl  was  killed  at  Cantigny.  I  guess 
he's  forgotten  the  trouble— I  don't  mean  forgotten  young  Carl. 
They've  still  got  the  picture  in  the  parlor,  and  the  uniform  looks 
queer,  now.  But  he  and  John  Pollard—that's  Kathy's  husband- 
get  on  a  lot  better  than  they  did.  There  was  feeling  between  the 
two  families  for  a  long  time,  over  the  meat-carving  set  and  the 
Irish  lace  doilies.  Well,  Grace  was  always  a  grabber,  and  she  did 
her  best  to  make  John  Pollard  feel  small.  But  he  got  to  be  prin- 
cipal of  Van  Twiller  for  six  months  before  they  retired  him— 
and  I've  seen  his  office.  He  was  the  steady  sort  that  works  up, 
and  they  couldn't  keep  him  out  of  the  position,  though  they 
tried.  Now  he's  got  the  testimonial  framed  and  it  means  some- 
thing to  him.  I  know  that  by  the  way  he  looks  at  it,  now  and 
then.  Their  youngest's  teaching  at  Hunter,  and  they  make  a  lot 
of  that. 


I  can't  say  I've  had  a  bad  life,  though  it  hasn't  been  quite  what 
1  expected.  If  I'd  gone  in  with  Uncle  Martin— he  was  always  the 
clever  one!  And  I  was  his  favorite,  in  a  manner  of  speaking.  But 
I  couldn't  stand  the  bother  of  politics— not  even  when  he  got  to 
be  district  leader.  He  might  have  gone  far,  I  think,  but  he  picked 
the  wrong  side,  in  the  Hall.  That's  the  unforgivable  mistake. 
Then,  later  on,  he  had  his  trouble— well,  the  jury  disagreed  at 
both  trials.  But  it  was  all  over  the  papers,  and  that  sticks  to  a 
man.  My  clever,  low-spoken  uncle!  I  remember  him  always,  a 
little  disdainful  of  the  rest  of  them,  and  you  felt  he  took  a  drink 
to  be  friendly,  and  yet  not  to  be  really  friendly.  And  then,  at 
the  trial,  he  was  an  old  man,  with  jowls  and  white  hair,  answer- 
ing just  as  clever  and  low-spoken  as  he  always  had,  and  yet  not 
making  a  good  impression.  Because  times  had  changed— that  was 
all— and  yet,  how  would  he  have  done  different?  It  was  in  his 
blood  to  rise  by  any  means  he  could  lay  hands  on,  and  pull  up  his 


All  Around  the  Town 

family,  too.  But  I'm  glad  that  it  didn't  interest  me-though  he 
helped  me  get  my  first  position. 

Well,  now,  I  was  young  and  strong,  though  you  might  not 
think  it.  I  wanted  to  go  on  the  Force— but  then  the  job  came 
along.  My  old  man  wanted  me  to  follow  in  his  own  line  of  busi- 
ness. But  I  didn't  feel  like  messing  around  all  day  with  little 
wheels  and  springs  and  an  eyeglass  stuck  in  one  eye.  They  were 
building  the  Subway  in  those  days— well,  that's  how  I  started. 
It  was  good  pay,  for  the  time,  and  I  wanted  to  marry  Eileen. 

It's  queer  what  a  man's  work  in  life  will  turn  out  to  be.  You 
go  around  the  top  of  the  city— well,  I  know  that,  too.  But  it's 
underneath  where  I've  worked,  the  strong  part  of  my  life.  You 
don't  often  get  to  thinking  of  it— a  man's  work  is  his  work, 
wherever  it  lies.  But,  if  it  wasn't  for  thousands  of  men  whose 
names  you've  never  heard  of,  all  living  their  lives  underground, 
it  wouldn't  be  a  city,  or  the  same  city.  I'd  think  of  it,  now  and 
again,  on  the  night  shift,  when  things  got  quiet  above.  They'd 
have  gone  to  sleep  by  then,— yes,  even  the  rich  and  proud,— but 
we'd  be  working.  It's  hard  to  put  to  you  so  you'll  understand  it. 
You  see  the  place  in  the  street  where  it's  planked  over,  and  the 
taxi  has  to  slow  up,  and  you  start  to  swear.  But,  underneath, 
there's  the  work  gangs,  and  the  lights. 

It  gives  you  a  pride,  in  a  way,  to  be  part  of  it— at  least,  at 
times.  You  feel  as  if  the  people  just  walking  the  streets  were  dif- 
ferent people  and  didn't  know.  It's  hard  for  me  to  explain  that— I 
don't  know  the  way  to  say  it.  But  I'm  glad  I  did  what  I  did— if  it 
did  mean  ending  up  in  a  change  booth,  and  then  the  pension.  It 
does  for  Martha  and  me. 

Eileen  always  expected  more  of  me,  and  maybe  she  was  right 
to  do  so.  But  a  young  man,  in  his  strength,  that's  bossing  a  gang 
—well,  that's  all  a  young  man  might  like.  He  could  well  be  wrong 
about  it,  but  he'd  have  to  be  shown  where  he  was  wrong.  But, 
when  I  found  out  what  was  happening,  I  broke  every  stick  of 
furniture  in  the  flat.  1  did  so.  She  wasn't  afraid  of  me,  either— 
I'd  have  killed  her  if  she  had  been.  But  she  stood  there,  cold  and 
proud,  with  the  look  she'd  had  when  I  first  saw  her,  the  look  of 
a  woman  untouched.  He'd  come  as  a  boarder  because  we  had  the 
extra  room  that  wasn't  needed  for  the  baby  after  all— a  whey- 
faced,  shrewd  little  man.  I  wasn't  as  angry  at  him,  for  some 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

queer  reason—I  think  he  did  his  best  to  be  decent,  through  it  all. 
But  she  was  ambitious,  always,  and  we  had  no  children. 

Well,  he  made  the  money—he  made  a  great  deal  before  he 
died.  Mrs.  Loring  Masters  and  the  big  house  on  Long  Island  and 
the  children  sent  to  fine  colleges,  except  for  the  one  that  killed 
himself.  When  the  daughter  was  married,  I  saw  the  picture  in 
the  paper,  and  she  had  just  the  look  of  Eileen.  I  wished  her  no 
ill— I  wished  her  great  good  fortune.  I  wished  her  mother  no  ill 
—yet  I  wondered  if  the  man  had  really  touched  her,  after  all. 
There  were  times  when  we  lay  beside  each  other,  in  our  youth, 
and  asked  no  better.  I  know  that,  for  that  is  not  something  a  man 
forgets.  And  it  was  the  same  with  her.  But  she  wanted  other 
than  that. 

I  don't  know  how  to  tell  it  all— I  wish  I  knew.  How  am  I  to  tell 
what  it's  like  to  come  home,  to  the  quiet  street,  after  the  night 
shift,  with  nothing  but  the  milkman's  horse  clopping  his  way 
along— and  be  tired  to  bone  and  marrow  and  yet  satisfied?  How 
am  I  to  tell  what  it's  like,  day  after  day?  The  city  stretches  and 
you  don't  notice  it,  till  one  day  you  go  to  the  Park,  and  the 
buildings  have  grown  up  like  a  fence  around  it.  I  remember  talk- 
ing to  my  Uncle  Matthew.  He'd  had  thirty-five  years  on  the 
Force  and  retired  as  inspector,  and  he  should  know  if  anyone 
did.  Well,  he  talked  about  many  changes,  in  an  old  man's  voice, 
and  how  there  was  still  as  much  law  in  the  end  of  a  night  stick  as 
in  many  law  books.  But  he  didn't  really  touch  it. 

It  reminds  me  of  the  one  time  I  went  to  Proctor's  when 
Nellie  was  on  the  bill.  She  did  well,  and  I  was  shamed  to  the  bone, 
but  I  couldn't  help  applauding.  The  audience  liked  her,  too— they 
knew  she  came  from  Third  Avenue  and  was  one  of  their  own. 
I've  given  her  change  at  the  window,  since,  and  she  didn't  know 
me.  Nobody  ever  looks  at  the  man  in  the  change  booth— nobody 
knows  if  he  has  a  face.  Why  should  I  be  worried  about  that? 
Well,  I'm  not,  to  tell  you  the  truth.  But  it's  given  me  a  chuckle, 
now  and  then,  when  somebody's  come  along  and  said,  "Why, 

Have  I  given  you  any  idea?  Most  likely  not.  I've  seen  Teddy 
Roosevelt,  the  young  dude  back  from  the  war,  and  his  teeth  wervT 
just  the  way  they  are  in  the  pictures.  I've  shook  hands  with 
John  McGraw— and  seen  the  sudden,  white,  Irish  rage  on  his  face 
when  somebody  yelled  "Muggsy"  at  him  out  of  the  crowd.  I've 


All  Around  the  Town 

seen  the  Mayor,  by  the  Zoo,  showing  his  boy  the  polar  bears— 
and  him  in  his  queer  black  hat  and  people  leaving  him  alone. 
But  where  do  you  begin  and  end?  I  remember  John  Pollard, 
that's  educated,  telling  me  once  about  some  city  in  Europe 
where  you  dug  down  and  under  the  city  was  the  ruins  of 
another  city  and  under  that  ruin  another  till  you  could  not 
come  to  the  end  of  them.  Now  that's  something  any  New 
Yorker  could  understand.  It's  Jimmy  Walker's  town  and  Rabbi 
Wise's,  it's  LaGuardia's  and  J.  P.  Morgan's  and  Cardinal  Spell- 
man's,  and  the  new  strong  hitter  on  the  Yankees'  and  Katharine 
Cornell's.  It  belongs  to  the  telephone  repairmen  and  the  Park 
Avenue  dolls,  to  the  fellow  that  peddles  the  racing  sheets  and 
the  choirboys  in  the  Cathedral  and  all  the  hackers  in  their  cabs. 
Now  how  would  I  say  whose  town  it  was,  precisely?  Yet  I'd 
like  to  know. 

Well,  now,  there  was  my  friend  Louis  Jordan,  went  into  do- 
mestic service.  It  didn't  seem  work  for  a  man  to  me,  at  first, 
and  yet  I  liked  him  well.  I  ran  into  him  first  at  Joe's  place,  the 
summer  that  Eileen  had  left  me— a  very  dignified  creature,  though 
drink  was  his  weakness.  But  you  could  neither  smell  it  nor  see 
it  on  him— at  least  at  that  time.  The  rich  man  he  worked  for 
had  closed  his  house  for  the  summer  and  left  Louis  and  his 
wife  the  caretaking  of  it.  A  dignified  creature,  I  say,  with  soft, 
puffy  hands  and  a  face  not  far  off  a  priest's.  His  wife  was  a 
little  thin  woman,  most  respectable,  in  black.  But,  when  he  got  to 
know  me  well,  he'd  ask  me  back  for  a  nip,  now  and  then,  at  the 
house.  Man,  dear,  you  never  saw  a  kitchen  stove  to  equal  that  one 
—it  could  have  roasted  an  ox.  Then  we'd  have  our  nip  and  his 
wife  would  run  the  cards  for  me,  very  considerate  and  respect- 
able, for  she  knew  I'd  had  troubles.  And  all  around  us  and  over 
us  was  the  big,  grand,  stately  house  with  its  pictures  and  its  fine 
furniture,  and  yet  we  the  only  things  alive  in  it,  like  mice  in  a 

He  took  me  through  the  whole  of  it,  one  warm  Sunday  after- 
noon. There  was  a  bathtub  of  marble,  though  it  looked  like  dusty 
stone,  and  the  man  of  the  house  had  twenty  suits  left  in  his  closet, 
and  yet  he  had  others,  for  he'd  not  appear  naked  where  he  was. 
It  gave  me  a  queer  feeling  to  see  all  those  suits,  hanging  up  on 
their  hangers.  Then,  when  we  got  back  to  the  kitchen,  we 
found  that  Mrs.  Jordan  had  got  hold  of  the  gin  bottle  and  was 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

stretched  out,  highly  respectable  but  stiff  as  a  corpse,  on  the 
floor.  So,  after  that,  I  knew  his  sorrow,  as  he  had  known  mine. 
Yet,  the  next  winter,  I  happened  to  pass  by  the  house.  There  was 
a  red  carpet  down  and  all  the  fine  carriages  drawing  up  at  the 
door.  And,  just  as  the  door  opened,  I  saw  Louis  Jordan,  like  a 
sentinel  on  post  in  his  dress  suit,  receiving  them  all,  with  the 
young  men  to  help  him.  Very  fine  he  looked,  and  not  like  the 
man  with  his  collar  off  that  I'd  drunk  with,  in  the  kitchen. 
And  she,  no  doubt,  was  helping  equally,  with  the  ladies.  Well, 
that's  a  long  time  ago,  and  the  house  is  gone. 


I've  seen  some  queer  sights,  I  have.  I've  stuck  my  head  up  from 
a  manhole  and  seen  six  elephants,  marching  down  Eighth  Avenue, 
holding  on  to  each  other's  tails.  It  was  only  for  the  circus  in 
Madison  Square  Garden,  but  it  gave  you  a  turn.  Then  there  was 
the  bar  the  midgets  used  to  frequent.  I  don't  remember  the  name 
of  it,  but  I  stumbled  in  there  one  night  and  thought  I'd  gone 
mad  when  all  the  little  faces  turned  at  me.  I've  seen  other  things 
as  well.  I've  seen  them  shower  the  ticker  tape  and  the  torn  paper 
from  the  high  buildings  and  got  a  glimpse  of  the  face  of  the 
man  they  were  welcoming.  It  might  be  one  face  or  another,  but 
it  looked  white  and  dazzled.  And  next  week  you'd  have  forgotten 
his  name.  x 

I  used  to  go  to  the  ball  games  often,  with  Martha,  and  that's  a 
sight,  too,  when  the  game  goes  into  extra  innings  and  the  crowd 
sits  tight  and  the  shadow  begins  to  grow  on  the  infield.  Her 
brother  was  with  the  Giants,  for  a  year— Swede  Nansen,  they 
called  him— a  tall,  blond,  slow-spoken  boy.  He  could  pitch  with 
the  best,  on  his  day,  but  he  liked  farming  better,  which  is  a 
queer  thing  in  a  man.  I  remember  the  time  he  struck  out  nine 
Cubs  in  five  innings,  and  the  yelling  of  the  crowd.  But  the  next 
year  his  arm  went  bad  on  him  and  nothing  could  be  done  for 
it.  He  played  for  Atlanta  a  while,— the  South  being  recom- 
mended for  him,— then  he  gave  up  the  game  and  settled  down  to 
his  farming,  and  now,  every  Christmas,  he  sends  us  a  box  of 
pecans.  But  his  record's  still  in  the  books,  and  the  game  where 
he  beat  Alexander.  I  should  like  to  see  him  again,  for  he  was 
a  man  I  respected,  but  I  doubt  now  that  I  will. 


All  Around  the  Town 

She's  been  a  good  wife  to  me,  Martha,  and  never  ashamed  of  a 
man  that  worked  with  his  hands— though  I  do  not  do  so  any 
more.  At  one  time  we  had  the  money,  and  that  was  a  contrary 
experience.  She  was  left  five  hundred  dollars,  and  that  sharp 
little  fellow,  Abe  Leavis,  told  us  what  to  buy.  At  first  I  felt  queer, 
going  into  the  grand  office,  but  soon  I  saw  my  money  was  as 
good  as  another's.  Yet,  though  I  will  not  criticize  any  other 
man's  work,  it  does  not  seem  to  me  a  man's  occupation  to  do 
nothing  but  watch  the  figures  change  on  a  blackboard.  They 
thought,  for  a  while,  that  I  was  lucky,  for  those  days  had  no 
sense  to  them  at  all.  An4  indeed,  I  thought  so  myself.  I've  had 
men  in  their  handmade  suits  ask  me  for  advice,  and  take  it,  too. 
They'd  have  taken  advice,  at  that  time,  from  a  horse,  if  the  horse 
was  winning  on  the  market.  Well,  it  was  forty  thousand  dollars 
before  it  was  nothing— so  you  can  say  that  I've  had  the  experience 
of  riches.  It  takes  a  man's  mind  off  his  work— that's  all  I  can  say. 
But  we  had  the  sealskin  coat  for  Martha— and  the  washing 

If  I  told  you  about  Abe  Leavis,  that  would  be  part  of  it,  too. 
That  was  a  rubber  ball  of  a  man,  a  rubber  ball  bounced  up  and 
down  the  pavements.  I  have  seen  him  so  thin  and  pitiful  it  would 
break  your  heart;  I  have  seen  him  round  and  plump,  with  his 
pockets  full  of  cigars.  You  could  kill  that  man,  but  you  could 
not  put  him  down.  But  how  he  loved  the  smell  and  taste  of  the 
city!  I'll  forgive  a  man  much  for  that.  No,  it  wasn't  my  city  he 
loved— it  was  Fifth  and  Park  and  the  riches— the  big  shining  toy- 
store  where  everything's  for  sale.  It  was  like  a  tonic  to  him  to 
pay  maybe  twenty  dollars  for  a  pair  of  theatre  tickets  and  get 
there  late  for  the  play.  But  that's  part  of  it,  too. 

Now  there's  whole  sections  and  locations  I've  never  seen.  It 
wasn't  so  long  ago  that  I  visited  my  grandnephew,  Francis. 
He  married  a  Jewish  girl  when  he'd  finished  his  interneship— 
a  pretty,  bright  young  thing— and  they've  got  an  apartment  on 
the  Grand  Concourse.  I  walked  twenty  blocks  after  I'd  left 
them  and  it  was  like  another  city.  And  yet  it  couldn't  have 
been  any  other  city.  It  couldn't  have  been. 

I  don't  know  if  it's  the  two  rivers  make  it— though  I  knew 
the  captain  of  the  Michael  T.  McQuillan,  and  a  good  man  he 
was  and  told  me  the  work  there  is  to  get  the  big,  proud  liners 
into  dock.  I  don't  know  if  it's  the  climate  that  makes  it— the  fine 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

fall  and  the  dirty  winter,  the  hot  summer  and  the  spring  that 
comes  with  the  flower  carts  and  touches  your  heart.  It's  a  healthy 
climate,,  I've  always  thought,  though  others  may  differ.  Now 
when  Martha  and  I  were  first  married  we'd  go  as  far  as  Far 
Rockaway  for  a  bite  of  the  summer.  And  that  was  a  change  and 
healthy— but  I  noticed  we  were  glad  to  get  back  where  you  knew 
the  look  of  the  streets.  I  don't  know— I  couldn't  say— it's  hard  for 
me  to  tell. 

Well,  now,  there's  the  being  old.  But  we  got  along  very  com- 
fortable. There's  a  lot  of  them  move  away— to  Florida,  let's  say 
—and  then  they  send  you  the  postcards,  saying  what  a  fine  time 
they're  having.  No  doubt  they  are,  if  they  like  it,  but  I  never 
could  see  it  made  them  look  any  younger.  There  was  my  friend, 
the  Dutchman,  that  retired  from  his  delicatessen  and  went  to  live 
with  his  granddaughter  at  White  Plains.  It  was  a  nice  house, 
to  be  sure,  and  he  kept  the  lawn  very  well  cut.  I  congratulated 
him  on  that.  Then  he  looked  at  me  and  there  was  a  grief  in  his 
eyes.  "Vy,  Ed,"  he  said,  "it's  all  right.  But  you  can't  cut  the  lawn 
all  day.  I  tell  you,  some  nights,  I  vake  up  and  listen  for  the  noise 
of  the  El.  And,  ven  it  ain't  there,  I  feel  old.  Ed,  I'd  give  ten 
dollars  if  Mrs.  Burke  was  to  come  in— the  fussy  one— just  to  tell 
me  she  vouldn't  put  up  with  this  kind  of  service  no  more."  Then 
his  granddaughter  came  to  tell  him  it  was  time  for  his  nap,  and, 
though  she  was  very  polite,  I  knew  I  should  go  away.  Thank 
God,  I've  been  spared  that— though  we've  neither  chick  nor  child. 

It's  cool  enough  in  the  flat,  and  if  there's  a  breeze  we  get  it. 
And  there's  always  something  to  look  at— the  boys  playing  ball  in 
the  streets,  shouting  under  the  light,  summer  evenings,  and  the 
taxis  drawing  up  to  the  apartment  house  opposite,  and  a  young 
woman  coming  out,  with  bare  arms.  Phil  Kelly,  the  doorman 
there,  is  a  friend  of  mine,  though  he  comes  from  Ulster.  They'd 
be  surprised,  in  that  house,  if  they  knew  the  things  that  I  know 
about  them.  I  don't  mean  any  ugly  things— just  the  odd  little 
circumstances.  It's  my  hope  that  the  pretty  dark  girl  will  marry 
the  young  man  with  glasses.  He's  steadier  than  the  one  that's  bet- 
ter-dressed. I'd  like  to  tell  her  that,  only  how  would  I  tell  her? 

There  isn't  a  trace  or  a  place  of  my  childhood's  house.  There 
isn't  a  trace  or  a  place  of  the  house  where  I  lived  with  Eileen. 
Now  last  year,  when  I  went  to  the  cemetery,  it  took  me  an 


All  Around  the  Town 

hour  to  find  Uncle  Martin's  grave,  though  they'd  kept  it  decent, 
and  he  was  a  well-known  man. 

You'd  think  such  a  thing  might  make  you  sad,  but  again,  it 
does  not.  It's  comfortable,  in  a  way,  to  be  like  the  dust  in  the  air. 
It's  hard  for  me  to  tell  it,  and  yet,  what  I  mean  is  this.  Last 
summer  I  went  to  the  Fair,  and  that's  a  great  sight,  no  doubt  of 
it.  Oh,  the  crowds  and  the  proud  buildings  of  the  nations  of 
the  earth  and  the  horns  tooting  "All  around  the  town"! 

It  was  some  State  Day  when  we  went  there,  and  there  was  the 
Governor  of  the  State,  with  the  sirens  blowing  in  front  of  him 
to  clear  the  way.  Well,  I  wouldn't  remember  which  State  it  was, 
but  that  makes  little  difference.  There  were  all  the  top  hats  there 
to  receive  him,  and  that's  only  courtesy.  And  yet  he  was  swal- 
lowed up  in  the  Fair  itself,  and,  except  for  the  people  from  his 
own  State,  there  was  no  one  knew  he  was  there,  or  cared  at  all. 
So  it  came  upon  me,  that  day—sitting  on  a  bench,  with  my  feet 
tired— it  all  came  upon  me.  For  they  all  seemed  to  pass  by  me,  the 
rich  and  the  great  and  the  proud,  with  the  sirens  blowing  in  front 
of  them.  And  yet,  that  wasn't  the  city,  and  when  the  Fair  itself 
was  finished,  there'd  be  many  still  in  the  city  that  hadn't  even 
seen  it.  It  was  a  fine  sight  to  see,  but  they  hadn't  missed  it,  in 
their  lives. 

And  so  it  was  with  the  most  of  us— and  with  the  city  itself.  For 
it  wasn't  the  mayors  and  the  millionaires  and  the  Presidents— 
though  I've  walked  by  the  President's  house  and  seen  him  go  in. 
It  was  my  Uncle  Ally  and  my  Uncle  Matthew,  my  friend  Louis 
Jordan  and  my  sister,  Nellie  O'AIara,  the  boys  that  were  on  the 
gang  with  me  and  the  boys  that  died  underground.  It's  the  small, 
new  honeymoon  couples,  buying  a  coffee  ring  at  the  corner 
bakery,  and  the  guards  who  walk  the  museums,  clean  and  pudgy; 
the  thieves  in  the  morning  round-up  and  the  good  men,  like  my 
old  man,  who  live  and  die  without  notice.  It's  all  that,  and  the 
moon  at  the  end  of  the  street  where  you  never  expected  a  moon. 

I  said,  "Martha,  I'm  tired,  I  think,"  and  she  took  me  home.  So 
next  day,  when  I  was  no  better,  she  called  my  grandnephew, 
Francis.  He's  been  very  kind,  and,  where  some  mi^ht  be  afraid  of 
the  hospital,  I  am  not.  It's  a  good,  sunny  room,  the  ward,  and 
the  nurses  very  attentive  to  an  old  man.  From  where  I  lie  on 
my  back,  I  can  see  the  river. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

So,  since  it's  to  be  that  way,  I'm  glad  it's  to  be  that  way. 
Wouldn't  I  have  been  the  fool  to  go  to  a  place  like  White 
Plains  and  die  there?  A  man  could  hardly  die  easy  in  those  foreign 
places—a  man  who's  seen  what  I've  seen.  I'm  aware  there  are 
other  cities.  The  day  orderly  comes  from  London,  and  we've 
talked  about  that  one. 

I  was  born  in  Brooklyn,  but  we  moved  to  the  East  Side, 
afterwards.  I  remember  my  mother's  baking  bread,  and  the 
Empire  State,  when  it  was  new.  You  won't  remember  Swede 
Nansen,  though  his  record's  in  the  book,  but  I  remember  him. 
You  won't  remember  Martin  O'Mara,  but  he  was  part  of  it. 
You  won't  remember  Logan's  on  Fourteenth  Street,  but  it  was 
a  fine,  large  store. 

When  they  bomb  the  town  to  pieces,  with  their  planes  from 
the  sky,  there'll  be  a  big  ghost  left.  When  it's  gone,  they'd  better 
let  the  sea  come  in  and  cover  it,  for  there  never  will  be  one  like 
'it  in  the  ages  of  man  again. 


I  used  to  read  quite  a  lot  of  books  when  I  was  younger,  but 
now  they  just  make  me  sore.  Marian  keeps  on  bringing  them 
back  from  the  lending  library  and,  occasionally,  I'll  pick  one 
up  and  read  a  few  chapters,  but  sooner  or  later  you're  bound  to 
strike  something  that  makes  you  sick.  I  don't  mean  dirt  or  any- 
thing—just foolishness,  and  people  acting  the  way  they  never  act. 
Of  course,  the  books  she  reads  are  mostly  love  stories.  I  suppose 
they're  the  worst  kind. 

But  what  I  understand  least  is  the  money  angle.  It  takes  money 
to  get  drunk  and  it  takes  money  to  go  around  with  a  girl— at 
least  that's  been  my  experience.  But  the  people  in  those  books 
seem  to  have  invented  a  special  kind  of  money— it  only  gets  spent 
on  a  party  or  a  trip.  The  rest  of  the  time  they  might  as  well 
be  paying  their  bills  with  wampum,  as  far  as  you  can  figure  it  out. 

Of  course,  often  enough,  the  people  in  books  are  poor.  But 
then  they're  so  darn  poor,  it's  crazy.  And,  often  enough,  just 
when  everything's  at  its  worst,  some  handy  little  legacy  comes 
and  the  new  life  opens  out  before  them  right  away,  like  a 



great  big  tulip.  Well,  I  only  had  one  legacy  in  my  life  and  I 
know  what  I  did  with  that.  It  darn  near  ruined  me. 

Uncle  Bannard  died  up  in  Vermont  in  1924,  and  when  his 
estate  was  settled,  it  came  to  $1237.62  apiece  for  Lou  and  me. 
Lou's  husband  put  her  share  in  Greater  Los  Angeles  real  estate 
—they  live  out  on  the  Coast— and  I  guess  they've  done  pretty  well. 
But  I  took  mine  and  quit  the  firm  I  was  with,  Rosenberg  and 
Jenkins,  mechanical  toys  and  novelties,  and  went  to  Brooklyn 
to  write  a  novel. 

It  sounds  crazy,  looking  back  on  it.  But  I  was  a  bug  about 
reading  and  writing  in  those  days,  and  I'd  done  some  advertis- 
ing copy  for  the  firm  that  pulled.  And  that  was  the  time  when 
everybody  was  getting  steamed  up  about  "the  new  American 
writers,"  and  it  looked  like  a  game  without  much  overhead.  I'd 
just  missed  the  war— I  was  seventeen  when  it  finished— and  I'd 
missed  college  because  of  father's  death.  In  fact,  I  hadn't  done 
much  of  anything  I  really  wanted  since  I  had  to  quit  high  school 
—though  the  novelty  business  was  all  right  as  businesses  go.  So 
when  I  got  a  chance  to  cut  loose,  I  cut. 

I  figured  I  could  easily  live  a  year  on  the  twelve  hundred,  and, 
at  first,  I  thought  of  France.  But  there'd  be  the  nuisance  of 
learning  frog-talk  and  the  passage  there  and  back.  Besides,  I 
wanted  to  be  near  a  big  library.  My  novel  was  going  to  be  about 
the  American  Revolution,  if  you  can  picture  it.  I'd  read  "Henry 
Esmond"  over  and  over  and  I  wanted  to  write  a  book  like  that. 

I  guess  it  must  have  been  a  bunch  of  my  New  England  ances- 
tors that  picked  Brooklyn  for  me.  They  were  pioneers,  all  right 
—but,  gosh,  how  they  hated  to  take  any  chance  but  a  big  one! 
And  I'm  like  that  myself.  I  like  to  feel  tidy  in  my  mind  when 
I'm  taking  a  chance. 

I  figured  I  could  be  as  solitary  in  Brooklyn  as  I  could  in  Pisa, 
and  a  lot  more  comfortable.  I  knew  how  many  words  it  took  to 
make  a  novel— I'd  counted  some  of  them— so  I  bought  enough 
paper  and  a  second-hand  typewriter  and  pencils  and  erasers. 
That  about  cleaned  out  my  ready  cash.  I  swore  I  wouldn't  touch 
the  legacy  till  I  was  really  at  work.  But  I  felt  like  a  million  dollars 
—I  swear  I  felt  as  if  I  were  looking  for  treasure— when  I  got  into 
the  subway  that  shiny  autumn  day,  and  started  across  the  river  to 
look  for  a  room. 

It  may  have  been  my  ancestors  that  sent  me  to  Brooklyn,  but 

Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

I  don't  know  what  landed  me  at  Mrs.  Forge's.  Old  Wrestling 
Southgate,  the  one  who  was  bothered  with  witches,  would  prob- 
ably have  called  it  a  flowered  snare  of  the  fiend.  And  I'm  not  so 
sure,  looking  back,  that  he'd  have  been  wrong. 

Mrs.  Forge  opened  the  door  herself— Serena  was  out.  They'd 
talked  about  putting  an  ad  in  the  paper  but  they'd  just  never  got 
around  to  it;  and,  naturally,  they  wouldn't  have  put  up  a  card. 
If  it  hadn't  looked  like  the  sort  of  house  I'd  wanted,  I'd  never 
have  rung  the  bell.  As  it  was,  when  she  came  to  the  door,  I 
thought  that  I  had  made  a  mistake.  So  the  first  thing  I  did  was 
beg  her  pardon. 

She  had  on  her  black  silk  dress—the  one  with  the  white  ruffles 
—just  as  if  she  were  going  out  calling  in  the  barouche.  The  minute 
she  started  to  speak,  I  knew  she  was  Southern.  They  all  had  that 
voice.  I  won't  try  to  describe  it.. There's  nothing  worse  than  a 
whiny  one— it  beats  the  New  England  twang.  But  theirs  didn't 
whine.  They  made  you  think  of  the  sun  and  long  afternoons  and 
slow  rivers— and  time,  time,  time,  just  sliding  along  like  a  current, 
not  going  anywhere  particular,  but  gay. 

I  think  she  liked  my  begging  her  pardon,  for  she  took  me  in 
and  gave  me  a  slice  of  fruit  cake  and  some  lemonade.  And  I 
listened  to  her  talk  and  felt,  somehow,  as  if  I'd  been  frozen  for 
a  long  time  and  was  just  beginning  to  get  warm.  There  was 
always  a  pitcher  of  lemonade  in  the  ice-box,  though  the  girls 
drank  "coke,"  mostly.  I've  seen  them  come  in  from  the  snow,  in 
the  dead  of  winter,  and  drink  it.  They  didn't  think  much  of  the 
cold,  anyway,  so  they  more  or  less  pretended  it  didn't  exist.  They 
were  that  way. 

The  room  was  exactly  what  I  wanted— big  and  sunny,  with  an 
outlook  over  a  little  backyard  where  there  was  the  wreck  of  a 
forsythia  bush  and  some  spindly  grass.  I've  forgotten  to  say  the 
house  was  in  one  of  those  old-fashioned  side-streets,  not  far  from 
Prospect  Park.  But  it  doesn't  matter  where  it  was.  It  must  be 
gone,  now. 

You  know,  it  took  all  my  nerve  to  ask  Mrs.  Forge  the  price. 
She  was  very  polite,  but  she  made  me  feel  like  a  guest.  I  don't 
know  if  you  can  understand  that.  And  then  she  couldn't  tell  me. 

"Well,  now,  Mr.  Southgate,"  she  said,  in  that  soft,  gentle, 
helpless  voice  that  ran  on  as  inexorably  as  water,  "I  wish  my 
daughter  Eva  had  been  here  to  receive  you.  My  daughter  Eva 



has  accepted  a  business  position  since  we  came  here  for  my 
daughter  Melissa's  art  training.  And  I  said,  only  this  morning, 
'Eva,  honey,  suppose  Serena's  away  and  some  young  person 
comes  here,  askin'  for  that  room.  I'll  be  bound  to  say  somethin' 
to  them,  sugar,  and  I'll  feel  right  embarrassed.'  But  just  then  some 
little  boys  started  shoutin'  down  the  street  and  I  never  did  rightly 
hear  what  she  answered.  So  if  you're  in  a  hurry,  Mr.  Southgate, 
I  don't  just  know  what  we  can  do." 

"I  could  leave  a  deposit,"  I  said.  I'd  noticed,  by  this  time,  that 
the  black  silk  had  a  tear  in  it  and  that  she  was  wearing  a  pair  of 
run-down  ball-slippers—incredibly  small  they  were.  But,  all  the 
same,  she  looked  like  a  duchess. 

"Why,  I  suppose  you  could,  Mr.  Southgate,"  she  said,  with 
an  obvious  lack  of  interest.  "I  suppose  that  would  be  businesslike. 
You  gentlemen  in  the  North  are  always  so  interested  in  business. 
I  recollect  Mr.  Forge  sayin'  before  he  died,  'Call  them  d — 
Yankees  if  you  like,  Milly,  but  we've  all  got  to  live  in  the  same 
country  and  I've  met  some  without  horns.'  Mr.  Forge  was  always 
so  humorous.  So,  you  see,  we're  quite  accustomed  to  Northern- 
ers. You  don't  hnppen  to  be  kin  to  the  Mobile  Southgates,  do 
you,  Mr.  Southgate?  You'll  excuse  an  old  lady's  askin'— but  you 
seem  to  favor  them  a  little,  now  your  face  is  in  the  light." 

I'm  not  trying  to  put  down  just  the  way  she  talked—she  didn't 
say  "ah"  and  "nah"— it  was  something  lighter  and  suaver.  But 
her  talk  went  on  like  that.  They  all  did  it.  It  wasn't  nervousness 
or  trying  to  impress  you.  They  found  it  as  easy  and  restful  to 
talk  as  most  of  us  do  to  keep  still;  and,  if  the  talk  never  got  any- 
where, they'd  never  expected  it  would.  It  was  like  a  drug— it 
made  life  into  a  dream.  And,  of  course,  it  isn't  that. 

Finally,  I  simply  went  for  my  stuff  and  moved  in.  I  didn't 
know  how  much  I  was  paying  or  what  meals  would  be  included 
in  it,  but  I  somehow  felt  that  these  things  would  be  shown  unto 
me  when  the  time  was  ripe.  That's  what  an  hour  and  a  half 
with  Mrs.  Forge  did  to  me.  But  I  did  resolve  to  have  a  clear 
understanding  with  "my  daughter,  Eva,"  who  seemed  to  be  the 
business  head  of  the  family. 

Serena  let  me  in  when  I  came  back.  I  gave  her  fifty  cents  to 
get  in  her  good  graces  and  she  took  an  instant  dislike  to  me  which 
never  wavered.  She  was  small  and  black  and  withered,  with 
bright  little  sparks  of  eyes.  I  don't  know  how  long  she'd  been 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

with  them,  but  I  thought  of  her  growing  on  the  family,  like 
nistletoe,  from  immemorial  time. 

Whenever  I  heard  her  singing  in  the  kitchen,  I  felt  as  if  she 
ivere  putting  a  private  curse  on  me.  "Honey-bird—"  she'd  croon 
-"honey-bird,  no  one  gwine  tuh  fly  away  wid  mah  honey-bird. 
Die  buzzard,  he  try  his  wings— he  flap  and  he  flap— man  wid  a 
*un  he  see  him— hi,  hi,  hi— shoot  ole  buzzard  wid  a  buckshot  and 
lever  tetch  mah  honey-bird." 

I  knew  who  the  old  buzzard  was,  all  right.  And  it  may  sound 
funny— but  it  wasn't.  It  was  spooky.  Eva  wouldn't  see  it;  they'd 
ill  treat  Serena  like  a  combination  of  unavoidable  nuisance  and 
:roublesome  child.  I  don't  understand  how  they  can  treat  servants 
:hat  way.  I  mean  friendly  and  grand  at  the  same  time.  It  isn't 

It  sounds  as  if  I  were  trying  to  keep  from  telling  about  Eva. 
[  don't  know  why  I'm  doing  that. 

I  got  unpacked  and  pretty  well  settled.  My  room  was  on  the 
:hird  floor,  back,  but  I  could  hear  the  girls  coming  home.  There'd 
3e  the  door  and  steps  and  a  voice  saying,  "Honey,  I'm  so  tired 
-I'm  just  plumb  dragged  out,"  and  Mrs.  Forge  saying,  "Now, 
loney,  you  rest  yourself."  There  were  three  of  those.  I  kind  of 
wondered  why  they  were  all  so  tired.  Later  on,  I  found  that  was 
ust  something  they  said. 

But  then  Mrs.  Forge  would  begin  to  talk  and  they  wouldn't 
)e  tired  any  more.  They'd  be  quite  excited  and  there'd  be  a  good 
leal  of  laughter.  I  began  to  feel  very  uncomfortable.  And  then  I 
jot  stubborn.  After  all,  I'd  rented  the  room. 

So,  when  Eva  finally  knocked  at  the  door,  I  just  grunted, 
'Come  in!"  the  way  you  would  to  a  chamber-maid.  She  opened 
he  door  and  stood  in  the  doorway,  hesitant.  I  imagine  Melissa 
lad  bet  her  she  wouldn't  have  the  nerve. 

"Mr.  Southgate,  I  believe?"  she  said,  quite  vaguely,  as  if  I 
night  be  anything  from  a  cloud  to  a  chest  of  drawers. 

"Dr.  Livingstone,  I  presume?"  I  said.  There  was  an  old  picture 
3n  the  wall— the  two  Englishmen  meeting  formally  in  the  middle 
:>f  a  paper  jungle.  But  I'll  hand  her  something— she  saw  I  wasn't 
rrying  to  be  fresh. 

"I  reckon  we  have  been  making  a  lot  of  racket,"  she  said.  "But 
that's  mostly  Melissa.  She  never  was  rightly  raised.  Won't  you 



give  us  the  favor  of  your  company  downstairs,  Mr.  Southgate? 
we-all  don't  act  crazy.  We  just  sound  like  it." 

She  was  dark,  you  know,  and  yet  she  had  that  white  skin. 
There's  a  kind  of  flower  called  fr,eesia— when  the  petals  are  very 
white,  they  have  the  color  of  her  skin.  And  there's  a  strong  sweet- 
ness to  it— strong  and  ghostly  at  the  same  time.  It  smells  like 
spring  with  the  ghosts  in  it,  between  afternoon  and  dusk.  And 
there's  a  word  they  call  glamour.  It  was  there. 

She  had  small  white  teeth  and  red  lips.  There  was  one  little 
freckle  in  the  hollow  of  her  throat— I  don't  know  how  she  hap- 
pened to  have  only  one.  Louisa  was  the  beauty  and  Melissa  the 
artist.  They'd  settled  it  that  way.  I  couldn't  have  fallen  in  love 
with  Louisa  or  Melissa.  And  yet,  I  liked  to  see  them  all  together— 
the  three  sisters— I'd  liked  to  have  lived  in  a  big,  cool  house  by  a 
river  and  spent  my  life  seeing  them  all  together.  What  fool 
thoughts  you  get,  when  you're  young!  I'd  be  the  Northern  cousin 
who  managed  the  place.  I  used  to  send  myself  to  sleep  with  it, 
every  night,  for  months. 

Mrs.  Forge  wasn't  in  it,  or  Serena.  It  was  a  big  place— it  went 
on  for  miles  and  miles.  Most  of  the  land  wasn't  good  for  much 
and  the  Negroes  were  bone-lazy,  but  I  made  them  work.  I'd  get 
up  in  the  first  mist  of  morning  and  be  in  the  saddle  all  day,  over- 
seeing and  planning.  But,  always,  I'd  be  coming  back,  on  a  tired 
horse,  up  that  flowery  avenue  and  they'd  be  waiting  for  me  on 
the  porch,  the  three  white  dresses  bunched  like  a  bouquet. 

They'd  be  nice  to  me,  because  I  was  weary,  and  I'd  go  upstairs 
to  the  room  looking  over  the  river  and  change  out  of  my  hot 
clothes  and  wash.  Then  Eva  would  send  me  up  a  long  drink  with 
mint  in  it  and  I'd  take  it  slowly.  After  supper,  when  I  wasn't  do- 
ing accounts,  they'd  sing  or  we'd  all  play  some  foolish  sort  of 
round  game  with  ivory  counters.  I  guess  I  got  most  of  it  out  of 
books,  but  it  was  very  real  to  me.  That's  one  trouble  with  books 
—you  get  things  out  of  them. 

Often  we  got  old,  but  it  never  seemed  to  change  us  much. 
Ojice  in  a  while  the  other  girls  were  married  and,  sometimes,  I 
married  Eva,  But  we  never  had  any  children  and  none  of  us  ever 
moved  away.  I  kept  on  working  like  a  dog  and  they  accepted  it 
and  I  was  content.  We  had  quite  a  few  neighbors,  at  first,  but  I 
got  tired  of  that.  So  I  made  it  a  river  island  you  could  only  reach 
by  boat,  and  that  was  more  satisfactory. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

It  wasn't  a  dream,  you  know,  or  anything  sappy  like  that.  I 
just  made  it  up  in  my  head.  Toward  the  end  of  the  year,  I'd  lie 
awake  for  hours,  making  it  up,  but  it  never  seemed  to  tire  me. 
I  never  really  told  Eva  about  it  at  all,  not  even  when  we  were 
engaged.  Maybe  it  would  have  made  a  difference,  but  I  don't 
think  so. 

She  wasn't  the  kind  of  person  you'd  tell  any  dreams  to.  She  was 
in  the  dream.  I  don't  mean  she  was  noble  or  fatal  or  like  a  ghost. 
I've  had  her  in  my  arms  and  she  was  warm  and  alive  and  you 
could  have  had  children  by  her,  because  things  are  that  way.  But 
that  wasn't  the  point— that  wasn't  the  point  at  all. 

She  didn't  even  have  much  imagination.  None  of  them  had. 
They  just  lived,  like  trees.  They  didn't  plan  or  foresee.  I've  spent 
hours  trying  to  explain  to  Mrs.  Forge  that,  if  you  had  ten  dollars, 
it  wasn't  just  ten  dollars,  it  was  something  you  could  put  in  a  sav- 
ings bank.  She'd  listen,  very  politely.  But  ten  dollars,  to  her,  was 
just  something  that  went  away.  They  thought  it  was  fine  if  you 
had  money,  but  they  thought  it  was  equally  fine  if  you  had  a 
good-looking  nose.  Money  was  rather  like  rain  to  them— it  fell  or 
it  didn't— and,  they  knew  that  there  wasn't  any  way  to  make  it 

I'm  sure  they'd  never  have  come  North  at  all,  if  it  hadn't  been 
for  some  obscure  family  dispute.  They  often  seemed  to  wonder 
about  it  themselves.  And  I  heard  the  dispute  talked  about  dozens 
of  times  but  I  never  really  got  the  gist  of  it,  except  that  it  was  con- 
nected with  two  things,  the  new  spur-track  to  the  turpentine 
plant,  and  Cousin  Belle.  "Cousin  Belle,  she  just  acted  so  mean- 
she  gave  up  her  manners,"  Mrs.  Forge  would  say,  placidly.  "She 
left  us  no  reco'se,  Bannard— no  reco'se  at  all."  And  then  the  girls 
would  chime  in.  I  suppose  they  got  the  money  to  come  North 
from  selling  land  to  the  turpentine  plant,  but  even  of  that  I  am 
not  sure. 

Anyhow,  they  had  golden  visions,  as  they  would  have.  Louisa 
was  going  to  be  a  great  actress  and  Melissa  a  great  artist— and  Eva 
—I  don't  know  exactly  what  Eva  expected,  even  now.  But  it  was 
something.  And  it  was  all  going  to  happen  without  any  real  work, 
it  was  going  to  fall  from  a  cloud.  Oh,  yes,  Melissa  and  Louisa 
went  to  classes  and  Eva  had  a  job,  but  those,  you  felt,  were  stop- 
gaps. They  were  passing  the  time  till  the  cloud  opened  and  tne 
manna  fell. 


I'll  say  this  for  them— it  didn't  seem  to  hurt  them  to  have  their 
visions  fail.  The  only  person  it  really  hurt  was  me. 

Because  I  believed  them,  at  first.  How  could  I  help  it?  The 
dream  I  had  wasn't  so  wrong.  They  were  living  on  an  island— an 
island  in  the  middle  of  Brooklyn— a  piece  of  where  they  came 
from.  People  came  to  the  house— art  students  and  such— there 
were  always  plenty  of  young  men.  But,  once  inside  the  house, 
they  submitted  to  the  house.  Serena  would  pass  the  cold  ham,  at 
supper,  and  you'd  look  out  of  the  window  and  be  surprised  to 
find  it  snowing,  for  the  window  should  have  been  open  and  the 
warm  night  coming  through.  I  don't  know  what  roomers  they'd 
ever  had  before,  but  in  my  time  there  was  only  myself  and  Mr. 
Budd.  He  was  a  fat  little  clerk  of  fifty,  very  respectable,  and  he 
stayed  because  of  the  food,  for  Serena  was  a  magnificent,  waste- 
ful cook. 

Yes,  I  believed  it,  I  believed  in  it  all.  It  was  like  an  enchant- 
ment. It  was  glamour.  I  believed  in  all  they  said  and  I  saw  them 
all  going  back  to  Chantry— the  three  famous  sisters  with  their 
three  distinguished  husbands— like  people  in  a  fairy-tale. 

We'd  all  have  breakfast  together,  but  the  only  person  who 
talked  much  then  was  Mr.  Budd.  The  Forges  never  were  properly 
alive  till  later  in  the  day.  At  breakfast,  you  saw  them  through  a 
veil.  Sometimes  I'd  feel  my  heart  beat,  staring  at  Eva,  because  she 
looked  like  one  of  those  shut  flowers  in  greenhouses— something 
shut  and  mysterious  so  you  fairly  held  your  breath,  waiting  for  it 
to  open.  I  suppose  it  was  just  because  she  took  a  long  time  to 
wake  up. 

Then  Mr.  Budd  and  the  girls  would  go  away,  and,  when  my 
bed  was  made,  I'd  go  up  and  work.  I'm  not  saying  much  about 
the  novel,  but  I  worked  hard  on  it.  I'd  made  a  little  chart  on  card- 
board with  365  squares  and  each  day  I'd  ink  one  in. 

I'd  go  out  for  lunch  and  take  a  walk  afterwards.  A  man  has  to 
have  regular  exercise,  and  that's  free.  Then  I'd  work  some  more, 
until  they  started  to  come  home.  I  couldn't  work  after  that— not 
after  the  first  months.  But  I'd  make  myself  not  listen  for  Eva's 

The  first  time  I  kissed  Eva  was  the  New  Year's  party.  One  of 
Louisa's  beaus  had  brought  some  red  wine  and  we  were  singing 
and  fooling  around.  Serena  was  off  for  the  evening  and  Eva  and 
I  were  out  in  the  kitchen,  looking  for  clean  glasses.  We  were 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

both  feeling  gay  and  it  just  seemed  natural.  I  didn't  even  think  of 
it  again  till  the  next  afternoon,  when  we'd  all  gone  to  the  movies. 
And  then  I  suddenly  began  to  shake  all  over,  as  if  I  had  a  chill, 
remembering,  and  she  said,  "What  is  it,  honey?"  and  her  hand 
slipped  into  my  hand. 

That  was  how  it  began.  And  that  night  I  started  inventing  the 
river  plantation.  And  I'm  not  a  fool  and  I've  been  around.  But  I 
held  hands  with  that  girl  through  January,  February,  and  most 
of  March  before  I  really  kissed  her  again.  I  can't  explain  it  at  all. 
She  wasn't  being  coy  or  mean  or  trying  to  fight  me.  It  was  as  if 
we  were  floating  downstream  in  a  boat  together,  and  it  was  so 
pleasant  to  look  at  her  and  be  near  her,  you  didn't  need  any  more. 
The  pain  hadn't  started,  then. 

And  yet,  all  through  that  time,  something  in  me  was  fighting, 
fighting,  to  get  out  of  the  boat,  to  get  away  from  the  river.  It 
wasn't  my  river  at  all,  you  know.  It  never  was.  And  part  of  me 
knew  it.  But,  when  you're  in  love,  you  haven't  got  common  sense. 

By  the  end  of  March,  the  novel  was  more  than  half  finished. 
I'd  allowed  two  months  for  revision  and  making  contacts,  which 
seemed  sensible.  And,  one  evening,  it  was  cold,  and  Eva  and  I 
took  a  walk  in  the  park.  And  when  we  came  in,  Mrs.  Forge  made 
us  some  hot  cocoa— the  other  girls  had  gone  to  bed  early,  for 
once— and,  while  we  were  drinking  it,  Mrs,  Forge  fell  asleep  in 
her  chair.  And  we  put  down  our  cups,  as  if  it  were  a  signal,  and 
kissed— and  the  house  was  very  quiet  and  we  could  hear  her 
breathing,  like  sleep  itself,  through  the  long  kiss. 

Next  morning,  I  woke  up  and  the  air  felt  warm  and,  when  I 
looked  out  in  the  yard,  there  were  leaves  on  the  forsythia  bush. 
Eva  was  just  the  same  at  breakfast,  shut  and  mysterious,  and  I 
was  just  the  same.  But,  when  I  went  up  to  work,  I  shook  my  fist 
at  old  Wrestling  Southgate,  the  fellow  that  was  bothered  with 
witches.  Because  I  was  going  to  marry  Eva,  and  he  could  go  to 

I  tell  you,  they  didn't  plan  or  foresee.  I  told  Mrs.  Forge  very 
straight  just  how  I  stood—finances  and  everything— and  they 
treated  it  like  a  party.  They  were  all  as  kind  and  excited  as  they 
could  be,  except  Serena.  She  just  refused  to  believe  it  and  sang  a 
lot  more  about  buzzards.  And,  somehow  or  other,  that  made  me 
feel  queerer  than  ever.  Because  I  knew  Serena  hated  me  but  I 
knew  she  was  a  real  person.  I  could  understand  her,  she  was  close 



t^>  the  ground.  And  I  loved  the  others  but  I  didn't  understand 
them,  and  sometimes  I  wouldn't  be  sure  they  were  quite  real.  It 
was  that  way  with  Eva,  even  though  we  were  in  love. 

I  could  kiss  her  but  I  couldn't  be  sure  that  she  was  always  there 
when  I  kissed  her.  It  wasn't  coldness,  it  was  merely  another 
climate.  I  could  talk  for  hours  about  what  we  were  going  to  do 
when  we  were  married  and  every  time  I  stopped  she'd  say,  "Go 
on,  honey,  it  makes  me  feel  so  nice  to  hear  you  talk."  But  she'd 
have  been  as  pleased  if  I'd  sung  it  instead.  God  knows  I  didn't  ex- 
pect her  to  understand  the  novelty  business,  or  even  writing.  But, 
sometimes,  I'd  honestly  feel  as  if  we  didn't  speak  the  same  lan- 
guage. Which  was  foolish,  because  she  wasn't  foreign. 

I  remember  getting  angry  with  her  one  evening  because  I 
found  out  she  was  still  writing  to  this  boy  friend,  down  South, 
and  hadn't  even  told  him  about  Us.  She  opened  her  eyes  very 

"Why,  honey,"  she  said,  in  the  most  reasonable  of  voices,  "I 
couldn't  stop  writing  Furfew  right  off  like  that.  I've  just  always 
been  sort  of  engaged  to  Furfew." 

"Well,  now  you're  engaged  to  me,"  I  said. 

"I  know,"  she  said.  "That's  why  I  can't  stop  writing  him, 
honey.  It  would  hurt  Furfew  something  dreadful  if  he  knew  I 
had  to  stop  writing  him  because  I  was  engaged  to  you." 

"Look  here,"  I  said,  wondering  which  of  us  was  crazy,  "are  we 
going  to  be  married?" 

"Of  co'se,  honey." 

"Then  what,"  I  said,  "has  this  Furfew  got  to  do  with  it?  Are 

you  engaged  to  him  or  me?" 
"Of  co'se  I'm  en 

engaged  to  you,  honey,  and  we're  going  to  get 
married.  But  Furfew,  he's  kind  of  like  kin,  and  we  been  engaged 
a  long  time.  It  seems  right  mean  and  uncivil  to  break  off  with 
him  short  like  that." 

"I  don't  believe  it,"  I  said,  "I  don't  believe  there  are  any  Fur- 
fews.  It  sounds  like  something  you  grow  under  glass.  What's  he 

She  thought  for  a  long  time. 

"He's  right  cute,"  she  said  finally.  "But  he's  got  a  little  doin's  of 
a  black  moustache." 

I  managed  to  find  out,  however,  that  he  owned  the  turpentine 
plant  and  was  considered  quite  the  John  D.  Rockefeller  of  Chan- 


Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

try.  I  was  so  used  to  no  one  in  Chantry  ever  having  any  money 
that  was  worth  anything,  that  this  came  as  an  unpleasing  surprise. 
After  that,  Furfew  used  to  try  to  come  to  the  river  plantation  in 
a  very  shiny  motor-launch  with  a  red-and-white  awning  and 
I  would  warn  him  off  with  a  shotgun. 

But  then  the  money  business  began.  You  like  to  give  a  girl 

Cisents  when  you're  in  love— you  like  to  do  things  right.  Well, 
rd  knows,  Eva  was  no  gold-digger—she  was  as  likely  to  be 
pleased  with  a  soda  as  a  pair  of  imported  gloves.  On  the  other 
hand,  she  was  as  likely  to  be  pleased  with  the  gloves. 

I  kept  on  schedule  with  the  work,  but  I  couldn't  with  the 
money.  Each  week,  I'd  be  just  a  little  over  the  line.  I  tell  you, 
the  people  in  books  don't  know  about  money.  The  people  who 
write  them  can  tell  what  it's  like  to  be  broke.  But  they  don't  tell 
what  it's  like  to  go  around  with  clothes  enough  to  cover  you  and 
food  enough  to  satisfy  you,  and  still  have  your  heart's  desire  de- 
pend on  money  you  haven't  got. 

Sure,  I  could  have  gone  back  in  the  novelty  business  and  Eva 
could  have  kept  on  working.  That  would  have  been  right  for 
nine  people  out  of  ten.  But  it  wouldn't  have  been  right  for  the 
way  I  felt  about  Eva.  It  can  be  like  that. 

I  wanted  to  come  to  her— oh,  like  a  rescuer,  I  suppose.  Like  a 
prince,  like  the  Northern  cousin  that  saved  the  plantation.  I 
didn't  want  to  make  the  best  of  things— I  wanted  it  all.  You  can't 
compromise  with  glamour.  Or  that's  the  way  I  feel. 

Besides,  I'd  put  in  eight  months'  work  on  that  novel  and  it 
didn't  seem  sensible  to  throw  it  all  away.  It  might  be  a  ladder  to 
climb  out  on.  It  might  have  been. 

Eva  never  complained,  but  she  never  understood.  She'd  just 
say  we  could  all  go  back  and  live  in  Chantry.  Well,  I'm  not  that 
kind  of  man.  If  it  had  only  been  the  river  plantation!  But,  by 
now,  I  knew  Chantry  as  well  as  if  I'd  been  born  there,  and  there 
wasn't  a  thing  for  me  to  do.  Except  maybe  a  job  in  Furfew's  tur- 
pentine plant.  And  wouldn't  that  nave  been  pretty? 

Then,  gradually,  I  got  to  know  that  the  Forges,  too,  were  al- 
most at  the  end  of  their  string.  I  had  to  get  it  casually— they 
never  talked  about  those  things  directly.  But  when  you  keep  on 
spending  what  you've  got,  there  comes  a  time  when  you  don't 
have  it  any  more.  Only,  it  always  surprised  them.  I  wish  I  was 
built  that  way. 



It  was  the  middle  of  July  by  this  time,  and  one  Saturday  after- 
noon Eva  came  home  and  said  she'd  been  let  off  at  her  office. 
They  were  cutting  down  the  staff.  I'd  just  been  going  over  my 
accounts,  and  when  she  told  me  that,  I  started  laughing  as  if  I 
couldn't  stop. 

She  looked  rather  surprised  at  first,  but  then  she  laughed,  too. 
"Why,  honey,"  she  said,  "you're  the  killin'est.  You  always 
take  things  so  serious.  And  then,  sometimes,  you  don't  take  them 
serious  a  bit." 

"It's  an  old  Northern  custom,"  I  said.  "They  call  it  'Laugh, 
clown,  laugh.'  For  God's  sake,  Eva,  what  are  we  going  to  do?" 
"Why,  honey,"  she  said,  "I  suppose  I  could  get  me  another 
position."  She  never  told  me  it  was  up  to  me.  She  never  would 
have.  "But  I  just  sort  of  despise  those  mean  old  offices.  Do  you 
think  I  ought  to  get  me  another  position,  honey?" 

"Oh,  darling,  it  doesn't  matter,"  I  said,  still  laughing.  "Noth- 
ing matters  but  us." 

"That's  mighty  sweet  of  you,  honey,"  she  said  and  she  looked 
relieved.  "That's  just  the  way  I  feel.  And,  when  we  get  married, 
we'll  fix  things  up  right  nice  for  Melissa  and  Louisa,  won't  we? 
And  mother,  of  co'se,  because  she  just  can't  stand  Cousin  Belle." 
"Sure,"  I  said.  "Sure.  When  we're  married,  we'll  fix  up  every- 
thing." And  we  went  out  in  the  back  yard  to  look  at  the  forsythia 
bush.  But  that  night,  Furfew  brought  his  launch  inshore  and 
landed  on  the  lower  end  of  the  island.  He  pitched  camp  there, 
and  I  could  see  his  fire  at  night,  through  a  glass. 

I  can't  describe  the  next  two  months  very  well.  They  were 
all  mixed  up,  the  reality  and  the  dream.  Alelissa  and  Louisa  had 
to  give  up  their  classes,  so  we  were  all  home,  and  lots  of  people 
came  to  the  house.  Some  of  them  were  callers  and  some  of  them 
were  bill-collectors  but,  whoever  they  were,  they  generally 
stayed  to  a  meal.  Serena  never  minded  that,  she  liked  company. 
I  remember  paying  a  grocery  bill,  with  almost  the  last  of  my 
legacy,  toward  the  end.  There  were  eight  hams  on  the  bill  and 
ten  cases  of  "coke."  It  hadn't  been  paid  for  a  long  time. 

Often,  we'd  all  pile  into  an  old  Ford  that  belonged  to  one  of 
the  art  students  and  go  down  to  a  public  beach  for  the  day.  Eva 
didn't  care  so  much  about  swimming  but  she  loved  to  lie  in  the 
sand.  And  I'd  lie  beside  her,  painfully  happy,  and  we'd  hardly 
say  anything  at  all.  My  God,  but  she  was  beautiful  against  those 

Stephen  Vincent  Eenet 

beach  colors— the  clear  greens  of  the  water  and  the  hot  white 
and  tan  of  the  sand.  But  then,  she  was  just  as  beautiful,  sitting  in 
the  plush  rocker  in  the  front  parlor,  under  that  green  lamp. 

They  say  the  time  between  the  Ordinance  of  Secession  and  the 
firing  on  Sumter  was  one  of  the  gayest  seasons  Charleston  ever 
had.  I  can  understand  that.  They'd  come  to  the  brink  of  some- 
thing, and  fate  was  out  of  their  hands.  I  got  to  feel  that  way. 

Everything  mixed,  I  tell  you,  everything  mixed.  I'd  be  sitting 
on  the  beach  with  Eva  and,  at  the  same  time,  I'd  be  riding  around 
the  river  plantation,  getting  reports  from  my  foreman  and  plan- 
ning years  ahead.  I  got  to  love  that  place.  Even  toward  the  end, 
it  was  safe,  it  didn't  change.  Of  course,  we  kept  having  more  and 
more  trouble  with  Furfew;  he  kept  extending  his  lines  from  the 
lower  end  of  the  island,  but  it  never  came  to  actual  warfare- 
just  fights  between  our  men. 

Meanwhile,  I  finished  the  novel  and  started  revising  it.  And 
sometimes  Eva  would  say  why  didn't  we  get  married,  anyway, 
and  I  knew  we  couldn't.  You  can't  get  married  without  some 
future  ahead  of  you.  So  we  started  having  arguments,  and  that 
was  bad. 

Why  didn't  I  just  seduce  her  like  the  big,  brave  heroes  in 
books?  Well,  there  were  times  when  I  thought  it  might  be  the 
answer  for  both  of  us.  But  it  never  happened.  It  wasn't  shame  or 
good  principles.  It  just  isn't  so  awfully  easy  to  seduce  a  dream. 

I  knew  they  were  writing  letters  but  I  didn't  want  to  know 
any  more.  I  knew  the  legacy  was  gone  and  my  savings  account 
was  going,  but  I  didn't  care.  I  just  wanted  things  to  go  on. 

Finally,  I  heard  that  Furfew  was  coming  North.  I  was  gbing 
around  like  a  sleepwalker  most  of  the  time,  then,  so  it  didn't  hit 
me,  at  first.  And  then  it  did  hit  me. 

Eva  and  I  were  out  in  the  back  yard.  We'd  fixed  up  an  old 
swing  seat  there  and  it  was  dusky.  Serena  was  humming  in  the 
kitchen.  "Ole  buzzard  he  fly  away  now— buzzard  he  fly  away." 
I  can't  sing,  but  I  can  remember  the  way  she  sang  it.  It's  funny 
how  things  stick  in  your  head. 

Eva  had  her  head  on  my  shoulder  and  my  arms  were  around 
her.  But  we  were  as  far  away  as  Brooklyn  and  New  York  with 
the  bridges  down.  Somebody  was  making  love,  but  it  wasn't  us. 

"When's  he  coming?"  I  said,  finally. 



"He's  drivin'  up  in  his  car,"  she  said.  "He  started  yesterday." 

"Young  Lochinvar  complete  with  windshield,"  I  said.  "He 
ought  to  be  careful  of  those  roads.  Has  he  got  a  good  car?" 

"Yes,"  she  said.  "He's  got  a  right  pretty  car." 

"Oh,  Eva,  Eva,"  I  said.  "Doesn't  it  break  your  heart?" 

"Why,  honey,"  she  said.  "Come  here  to  me." 

We  held  each  other  a  long  time.  She  was  very  gentle.  I'll  re- 
member that. 

I  stayed  up  most  of  that  night,  finishing  revision  on  the  novel. 
And,  before  I  went  to  sleep,  Furfew  came  to  the  house  on  the 
river  plantation  and  walked  in.  I  was  standing  in  the  hall  and  I 
couldn't  lift  a  hand  to  him.  So  then  I  knew  how  it  was  going 
to  be. 

He  came  in  the  flesh,  next  afternoon.  Yes,  it  was  a  good  car. 
But  he  didn't  look  like  Benedict  Arnold.  He  was  tall  and  black- 
haired  and  soft-voiced  and  he  had  on  the  sort  of  clothes  they 
wear.  He  wasn't  so  old,  either,  not  much  older  than  I  was.  But 
the  minute  I  saw  him  beside  Eva,  I  knew  it  was  all  up.  You  only 
had  to  look  at  them.  They  were  the  same  kind. 

Oh,  sure,  he  was  a  good  business  man.  I  got  that  in  a  minute. 
But,  underneath  all  the  externals,  they  were  the  same  kind.  It 
hadn't  anything  to  do  with  the  faithfulness  or  meanness.  They 
were  just  the  same  breed  of  cats.  If  you're  a  dog  and  you  fall 
in  love  with  a  cat,  that's  just  your  hard  luck. 

He'd  brought  up  some  corn  with  him  and  he  and  I  sat  up  late, 
drinking  it.  We  were  awfully  polite  and  noble  in  our  conversa- 
tion but  we  got  things  settled  just  the  same.  The  funny  thing  is, 
I  liked  him.  He  was  Young  Lochinvar,  he  was  little  Mr.  Fix-it, 
he  was  death  and  destruction  to  me,  but  I  couldn't  help  liking 
him.  He  could  have  come  to  the  island  when  Eva  and  I  were 
married.  He'd  have  been  a  great  help.  I'd  have  built  him  a  house 
by  the  cove.  And  that's  queer. 

Next  day,  they  all  went  out  in  the  car  for  a  picnic,  and  I  stayed 
home,  reading  my  novel.  I  read  it  all  through— and  there  was 
nothing  there.  I'd  tried  to  make  the  heroine  like  Eva,  but  even 
that  hadn't  worked.  Sometimes  you  get  a  novelty  like  that— it 
looks  like  a  world-beater  till  you  get  it  into  production.  And 
then,  you  know  you've  just  got  to  cut  your  losses.  Well,  this  was 
the  same  proposition. 


Stephen  Vincent  Benet 

So  I  took  it  down  to  the  furnace  and  watched  it  burn.  It  takes 
quite  a  while  to  burn  four  hundred  sheets  of  paper  in  a  cold 
furnace.  You'd  be  surprised. 

On  my  way  back,  I  passed  through  the  kitchen  where  Serena 
was.  We  looked  at  each  other  and  she  put  her  hand  on  the  bread- 

"Pll  like  to  see  you  burning  in  hell,  Serena,"  I  said.  I'd  always 
wanted  to  say  that.  Then  I  went  upstairs,  feeling  her  eyes  on 
my  back  like  the  point  of  the  bread-knife. 

When  I  lay  down  on  the  bed,  I  knew  that  something  was  fin- 
ished. It  wasn't  only  Eva  or  the  novel.  I  guess  it  was  what  you 
call  youth.  Well,  we've  all  got  to  lose  it,  but  generally  it  just 
fades  out. 

I  lay  there  a  long  time,  not  sleeping,  not  thinking.  And  I  heard 
:hem  coming  back  and,  after  a  while,  the  door  opened  gently 
and  I  knew  it  was  Eva.  But  my  eyes  were  shut  and  I  didn't  make 
a  move.  So,  after  another  while,  she  went  away. 

There  isn't  much  else  to  tell.  Furfew  settled  everything  up— 
don't  tell  me  Southerners  can't  move  fast  when  they  want  to— 
and  the  packers  came  and  four  days  later  they  all  started  back 
for  Chantry  in  the  car.  I  guess  he  wasn't  taking  any  chances,  but 
he  needn't  have  worried.  I  knew  it  was  up.  Even  hearing  Cousin 
Belle  had  "come  around"  didn't  excite  me.  I  was  past  that. 

Eva  kissed  me  good-by— they  all  did,  for  that  matter— the 
mother  and  the  three  sisters.  They  were  sort  of  gay  and  excited, 
thinking  of  the  motor-trip  and  getting  back.  To  look  at  them, 
you  wouldn't  have  said  they'd  ever  seen  a  bill-collector.  Well, 
that  was  the  way  they  were. 

"Don't  write,"  I  said  to  Eva.  "Don't  write,  Mrs.  Lochinvar." 

She  puckered  her  brows  as  she  did  when  she  was  really  puzzled. 

"Why,  honey,  of  co'se  I'll  write,"  she  said.  "Why  wouldn't  I 
write  you,  honey?" 

I  am  sure  she  did,  too.  I  can  see  the  shape  of  the  letters.  But  I 
never  got  them  because  I  never  left  an  address. 

The  person  who  was  utterly  dumbfounded  was  Mr.  Budd.  We 
camped  in  the  house  for  a  week,  getting  our  own  meals  and 
sleeping  under  overcoats— the  lease  wasn't  up  till  the  first  and 
Furfew  had  made  an  arrangement  with  the  owner.  And  Mr.  Budd 
couldn't  get  over  it. 

"I  always  knew  they  were  crazy,"  he  said.  "But  I'll  never  get 



such  cooking  again."  I  could  see  him  looking  into  a  future  of 
boarding-houses.  "You're  young/'  he  said.  "You  can  eat  anything. 
But  when  a  man  gets  my  age — " 

He  was  wrong,  though.  I  wasn't  young.  If  I  had  been,  I 
wouldn't  have  spent  that  week  figuring  out  three  novelties.  Two 
of  them  were  duds,  but  the  third  was  Jiggety  Jane.  YouVe  seen 
her— the  little  dancing  doll  that  went  all  over  the  country  when 
people  were  doing  the  Charleston.  I  made  the  face  like  Serena's  at 
first,  but  it  looked  too  lifelike,  so  we  changed  the  face.  The  other 
people  made  most  of  the  money,  but  I  didn't  care.  I  never  liked 
the  darn  thing  anyway.  And  it  gave  me  a  chance  to  start  on 
my  own. 

They  couldn't  stop  me  after  that.  You're  harder  to  stop,  once 
you  get  rid  of  your  youth.  No,  I  don't  think  it  was  ironic  or  any 
of  those  things.  You  don't,  outside  of  a  book.  There  wasn't  any 
connection  between  the  two  matters. 

That  fall  I  met  Marian  and  we  got  married  a  year  later.  She's 
got  a  lot  of  sense,  that  girl,  and  irs  worked  out  fine.  Maybe  we 
did  have  the  children  a  little  quick,  but  she'd  always  wanted 
children.  When  you've  got  children  and  a  home,  you've  got 
something  to  keep  you  steady.  And,  if  she  gets  a  kick  out  of 
reading  love  stories,  let  her.  So  I  don't  have  to. 

In  a  book,  I'd  have  run  across  Eva,  or  seen  Furfew's  name  in  a 
paper.  But  that's  never  happened  and  I  suppose  it  never  will.  I 
imagine  they're  all  still  in  Chantry,  and  Chantry's  one  of  those 
places  that  never  gets  in  the  news.  The  only  thing  I  can't  imagine 
is  any  of  them  being  dead. 

I  wouldn't  mind  seeing  Furfew  again,  for  that  matter.  As  I 
say,  I  liked  the  man.  The  only  thing  I  hold  against  him  is  his 
moving  them  back,  that  way,  before  the  lease  was  up.  It  was  all 
right  and  he  had  his  reasons.  But  they  had  two  weeks  left— two 
weeks  till  the  first.  And  that  would  just  have  finished  the  year. 

And  when  I  get  to  sleep  nowadays,  Marian's  there  in  the  next 
bed,  so  that's  all  right,  too.  I've  only  tried  to  go  back  to  the  river 
plantation  once,  after  a  convention  in  Chicago  when  I  was  pretty 
well  lit.  And  then,  I  couldn't  do  it.  I  was  standing  on  the  other 
side  of  the  river  and  I  could  see  the  house  across  the  water.  Just 
the  way  it  always  was,  but  it  didn't  look  lived  in.  At  least  nobody 
came  to  the  window— nobody  came  out. 



When  the  man  in  the  bed  woke  up,  it  was  early  in  the  after- 
noon. He  had  learned,  some  weeks  before,  that  it  was  a  good 
thing,  when  you  woke  up,  to  hold  yourself  perfectly  still  for  a 
moment,  until  you  were  wide  awake.  In  that  way  you  wouldn't 
make  an  unexpected  movement  and  the  pain,  if  any,  wouldn't 
jump  at  you.  It  was  the  jumping  at  you  that  mattered— if  you 
merely  lay  still  and  let  it  seep  into  you,  you  could  stand  it  quite 
nobly  and  heroically,  even  if  no  one  else  were  around.  But  this 
afternoon  there  was  nothing— just  a 'little  whisper,  a  little  rem- 
iniscence—nothing real.  Just  enough  to  make  you  conscious  that 
there  had  been  a  great  deal  of  it,  once.  It  was  wonderful. 

"Boy!"  said  John  Blagden  to  himself.  "You're  going  to  get 
well.  Do  you  know  it?  You're  going  to  be  O.K." 

He  sat  up  a  little  higher  in  bed  and  listened  to  the  sounds  of 
Floor  7.  The  radio  was  on  as  usual,  next  door,  at  "No  Visitors," 
muted  and  throbbing— the  old  guy  across  the  hall  was  getting  a 
different  program.  "Now,  Lucy  Lee,  don't  you  worry— we'll  get 
them  cows  back  for  you."  It  was  a  little  loud,  but  John  Blagden 
didn't  mind.  The  old  guy  was  just  a  mild  heart  case— let  him 
amuse  himself.  When  you'd  had  a  McWhirter,  with  adhesions, 
you  could  afford  to  be  generous  to  people  like  that. 

As  he  often  did,  when  he  waked  up,  he  had  a  sense  of  the 
whole  big  mechanism  of  the  hospital,  cut  off  from  the  rest  of 
the  world,  yet  self-sufficient,  like  a  boat  or  a  train.  That  was  a 
hang-over  from  the  dreams  after  the  operation.  But  it  made  an 
amount  of  sense.  There  was  a  routine,  with  fixed  stops,  and  you 
saw  a  great  deal  of  people  you  would  probably  never  see  again. 
Sometimes  you  didn't  even  see  them— just  knew  them  as  you 
knew  his  neighbor,  No  Visitors,  from  a  card  stuck  in  a  door  and 
a  radio  heard  through  the  wall.  Nevertheless,  he  had  been  able 
to  build  up  a  pretty  good  picture  of  his  neighbor.  She  was  small 
and  faded  and  whmy,  and  she  put  on  a  bright  pink  bed  jacket 
before  the  doctor  came.  She  didn't  like  Orson  Welles,  but  she 
just  loved  Nelson  Eddy  and,  though  she  complained  about  the 
food,  she  didn't  want  to  die.  He  wondered  if  she  had  any  children 
—there  was  probably  a  toothy,  successful  son  somewhere.  The 
grandchildren  weren't  brought  to  see  her,  because  she'd  cry  at 


No  Visitors 

them.  But  the  son  sent  flowers  on  Monday,  and  she  talked  to 
the  nurses  about  him.  Yes,  that  would  be  it.  Afterwards,  when 
it  was  over,  the  marcelled  daughter-in-law  would  talk  about 
mother's  illness  to  her  friends,  with  a  proprietary  pride.  "Ed  had 
everything  possible  done— you  know  how  generous  Ed  is!"  No, 
he  couldn't  really  like  No  Visitors.  But  it  must  be  tough,  being 
No  Visitors,  day  after  day. 

He  could  do  with  a  cigarette.  When  he  stretched  his  arm  for 
it,  the  shadow  of  pain  increased  by  a  fraction,  but  that  had  no 
significance.  He  lit  the  cigarette  cautiously  and  inhaled.  For  the 
first  time,  it  tasted  right,  not  like  hay  and  ether.  He  drew  the 
smoke  all  the  way  inside  him— inside  his  body  that  had  been  sick 
and  was  getting  well. 

"Have  a  nice  nap?"  said  the  nurse,  coming  in.  "That's  a  good 

She  smiled,  professionally,  and  put  cold  fingers  on  his  wrist, 
glancing  at  her  watch.  Some  of  their  hands  were  warm  and  some 
were  cold,  but  they  were  all  nice  girls,  except  for  the  one  night 
nurse  who  had  said  she  had  no  orders  to  give  him  the  hypo,  that 
time.  He  didn't  even  know  what  she  looked  like,  but  he  had 
hated  her  for  a  long  while.  Now,  it  seemed  silly  to  have  hated  her 
-^indeed,  silly  to  have  hated  anybody.  Pm  Tiny  Tim,  himself  and 
in  person,  he  thought.  But  I  don't  mind. 

"How  is  it  outside?"  he  said. 

"It's  cold,"  said  the  nurse,  "but  I  like  it  cold.  I'm  from  Ver- 
mont. A  lot  of  the  girls  don't  like  it,  but  I  do.  Don't  you  want  the 
bed  up— you'll  want  to  read  your  book,  I  guess." 

She  went  to  work,  smoothly  and  efficiently,  fixing  the  pillows, 
cranking  the  bed  with  the  little  crank,  while  he  thought  about 
her  being  from  Vermont.  As  she  bent  to  lift  hi